Monday, June 18, 2018

Hot! Live! Music!


tUnE-yArDs, "Water Fountain"
My enjoyment of this song and this performance is only slightly tempered by my annoyance at having to type out the silly stylized name.


U2, "Moment Of Surrender"
I'll be the first to admit that No Line On The Horizon isn't one of U2's best albums, but that record has seven minutes of pure joy in Moment Of Surrender.  I almost wrote "seven minutes of heaven," but that would've been kind of weird.


Postmodern Jukebox, "Don't Stop Me Now" (Queen cover)
I'm not saying I wasn't impressed by the trailer, but Melinda Doolittle seems like a much better Freddie Mercury than Mr. Robot.



R.E.M. "Let Me In"
This one is courtesy of the "R U Talkin' R.E.M. Re: Me?" podcast, which was formerly known as "U Talkin' U2 To Me."  As you might expect, this pod focuses on the R.E.M. discography rather than U2's albums, but it's still Scott Aukerman and Adam Scott talking nonsense for about 75% of the show.  Maybe a bit less than 75%, actually, since it seems like Adam Scott is a bigger R.E.M. fan and actually has more to say, though it's maybe balanced out by Aukerman knowing very little about the band's post-80's work.  Still, if you like R.E.M. and have patience for lots of non-band-related goofing around, it's worth the listen.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

World Cup Predictions

They started the World Cup before I could make my picks?! Poor form, FIFA!

GROUP A (predicted order of finish): Uruguay, Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia
GROUP B: Spain, Morocco, Portugal, Iran
GROUP C: France, Peru, Denmark, Australia
GROUP D: Argentina, Croatia, Nigeria, Iceland
GROUP E: Brazil, Serbia, Switzerland, Costa Rica
GROUP F: Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea
GROUP G: Belgium, England, Tunisia, Panama
GROUP H: Colombia, Poland, Japan, Senegal

This sets up a bracket of....

Uruguay vs. Morocco
France vs. Croatia
Brazil vs. Mexico
Belgium vs. Poland
Spain vs. Russia
Argentina vs. Peru
Germany vs. Serbia
Colombia vs. England

...and from that, I'll predict Brazil over Germany in the final.  Revenge for the infamous 7-1 drubbing at the last World Cup!  Fun fact: during that game, I was at the dentist getting a cavity filled, so they had me all novocaine'd up.  When I left the appointment, they had the game on the TV in the reception area, and upon seeing the 4-0 scoreline at the time, I honestly thought I was still loopy from the medication.  As a bonus pick, I'll go with France over Argentina in the third place, as Messi's LeBron-esque attempt at being a one-man team again is not quite enough.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Canada's In The World Cup?!

I'll hold off my official World Cup predictions for a day to look ahead to the 2026 World Cup, in a nod to this morning's breaking news that the joint bid of Canada/Mexico/United States has been awarded the tournament.  Now, Canada and Mexico will only be hosting 10 games each while the U.S.A. hosts 60, so this is about as much of a joint bid as Destiny's Child was a joint effort between three pop stars of equal stature, but still, yay Canada!

This means that, for all intents and purposes, Canada's hilariously inept men's national team has finally made it back into a World Cup.  Technically, FIFA has yet to officially decide whether or not all three host countries will get automatic bids, but the odds are pretty good.  After all, the tournament is expanding to 48 teams in 2026, so they'll have plenty of extra space for more North American teams to qualify.  Heck, with a 48-team field, maybe Canada would've qualified anyway! 



....er....moving on...

It's certainly a major landmark for Canadian soccer, Canadian sport, and really the nation as a whole.  It should be noted that the proposed number of games and venues for our country has yet to be finalized, with no guarantees that the announced cities of Vancouver, Edmonton, and Toronto will end up with games. 

In the midst of this uncertainty, I propose that my hometown of London, Ontario step into the driver's seat.  We have several soccer fields in town, some of which I myself played on as a child!  Oh, how I hated it!  The matches were less competitive games for me than they were a necessary evil to obtain orange slices.  My parents still to this day talk about how they've never seen me more miserable than when my eight-year-old was half-heartedly running up and down the pitch in the midst of a massive downpour.  I guess they bring it up since moments of pure misery were pretty rare in my childhood, and thus this one really stood out....so really, strong parenting on their part!

London not only has soccer facilities, but MULTI-FIELD facilities.  That's right, sports complexes with three, four, maybe five or six fields able for use at any given time.  In the name of efficiency, we could play four games at once and roll through the entire group stage in maybe a week.

I can't speak for every set of fields, but the one near my parents' house (the actual site of my Roy Batty-esque "tears in rain" game) serves particularly tasty french fries in the snack booth.  Just saying.  If the French national team has a game scheduled in London and tries the fries, they'll definitely back me up on this.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Lime Rick

(No, this isn't a Ricky & Morty post.  I've actually never seen the show, and now I feel it's been too many seasons for me to catch up.  One can't wait forever in the era of Peak TV)

While out tonight, I found myself sitting behind a couple who were amusing each other with intentionally-cheesy poems.  They may have been drunk, in this reporter's opinion, but whatever.  They began with several variations on "roses are red, violets are blue..." before they moved onto lime-ricks.

You may wonder why I included the dash.  It's because that's how they were pronouncing the word: as if it was a lime-flavoured person named Rick rather than "limmer-ick."  I suppose it's possible this could have been some type of inside joke between them, especially since this is a couple that clearly enjoys reciting drunken poetry to each other, though it seemed pretty genuine.

It's a popular train of thought that one should never make fun of someone mispronouncing a word because a mispronunciation means they learned the word via reading, and reading should always be encouraging.  Ninety-nine times out of 100, I thoroughly agree with that sentiment….except for people who pronounce it as "lime-rick."  Then they’re just dumb-dumbs.

Monday, June 04, 2018

Sting & Shaggy

This is not a drill --- Sting and Shaggy have teamed up to collaborate on a new album.

To be clear, this is indeed Shaggy of "It Wasn't Me" fame, and Gordon "Sting" Sumner from The Police.  It's not, like, Shaggy from Scooby Doo and Sting from pro wrestling teaming up to solve crimes and/or beat up the bad guys.  (Frankly, I think Sting would handle the heavy lifting on both the investigative and muscle sides of that team.)  This is indeed two musicians of seemingly disparate backgrounds joining forces to whip up a record that we can all enjoy.

And frankly, why not?  What's stopping them?  Sting's had some interest in reggae even dating back to his Police days, so if anything, he's probably overdue to make an album with an actual reggae artist.  And Shaggy can't very well be a reggae fusion artist if he isn't fusing reggae with something else.

I'm not going to buy this album but what the heck, tip of the hat to the two of them for making it.  This seems to be the general consensus about this whole project, as exemplified by this review from NME's Jordan Bassett.  He only gives it two stars, yet he can't bring himself to fully pan it.

"There’s something weirdly enjoyable about this cheery abomination of an album. The camaraderie is palpable. These are staggeringly, beautifully unselfconscious men, insulated by success, and they have honestly no idea how ludicrous they look and sound....Their hearts are in the right place, even if their better judgment was sunning itself somewhere in Kingston."

If Shaggy and Sting make another record, they absolutely have to title it "Cheery Abomination."  Anyway, here's the first single, judge for yourself!

Friday, June 01, 2018

The Hiatus

After years of sticking to a 10 posts-per-month schedule, I decided to take May entirely off.  Now, I guess you could say my streak still lives since I'm technically still averaging ten posts per month when I actually post, but this is splitting hairs to a comical extent, even for a bald guy.

Why the break?  Basically, just a combination of a busy workload, some life stuff getting in the way, and maybe even **quiet voice** just a bit of boredom about blogging?  In theory, this month away will recharge my batteries, and I indeed do feel a bit more pep in my step as I write these words.  Even though I'm sitting down and live an overtly sedentary lifestyle, I'd definitely have a jaunty stride if I ever stopped being lazy.

Stay tuned for most posts as we roar into June.  Same blog time, same blog channel!

Monday, April 30, 2018

Parker & Parker

I have no intention of watching the new Lost In Space series, since nothing about the rebooted premise interests me.  I would have supreme interest, however, in a show where two of the Lost In Space stars (Molly Parker and Parker Posey) drive around in a van and solve crimes.

Why AREN'T there more "drive around in a van and solve crimes" shows, by the way?  The premise has been a running gag for years.  It's true that there are literally dozens of procedural crime dramas that have cases-of-the-week and they simply don't feature the protagonists actually using a van as their base of operations, but even still, why not go (or drive) the extra mile?  The NCIS team often uses a van for transport purposes, presumably.  Why not a plot twist where Mark Harmon and company go rogue and decide to become their own version of the A-Team and/or the Scooby Gang?  Why Hollywood hasn't offered me millions of dollars to write these shows, I'll never know.

The boldest premise for my Molly Parker/Parker Posey program would be to have them playing fictionalized versions of themselves, somehow drafted into becoming roving detectives despite their active acting careers.  It's really a perfect combination, with Molly being the most straight-laced of the duo and Posey being roughly 30% crazy in every role she's ever played.  Why not play both personas up to the hilt in a fictionalized, crime-busting setting?  Or, to go in the totally opposite direction, they just play fictional characters...that are more or less these same personas.  Ok, so not TOTALLY opposite.  They could even play sisters.  Pop quiz: which of Molly Parker and Parker Posey is oldest?  I thought about this for five minutes before looking it up.

The title possibilities are endless.  Parker & Parker, Parker/Parker, Molly Posey, Parker Squared, etc.  You probably can't call it just "Parker" without getting a call from the estate of Donald Westlake, but just the singular name obscures the unique nature of the show.  It's TWO actresses sharing a SAME NAME but one is a GIVEN NAME and the other is a SURNAME.  This is so high-concept it hurts.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Follow That Beastie

Some days you just want to watch a video of a Beastie Boys classic set to scenes from "Follow That Bird." Today....is one of those days.


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Other People's Writing

* Shea Serraro of The Ringer provides a ranking of the 32 greatest Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez moments in honour of The Sandlot's 25th anniversary.  If you're ever having a discussion with friends about the greatest fictional athletes, Benny The Jet is a very solid first-round pick.

* I'm embarrassed to mention that I watched Jersey Shore for its first four seasons, but honestly, I swear, the first season was genuinely entertaining.  (I should've quit while I was ahead.)  Vulture's Molly Fitzpatrick captures the madness in an oral history of the show, and really, come on, I dare anyone to read this and not laugh at some of the pure absurdity.  From the first few paragraphs about the casting process alone, we learn that Snooki's application was smudged with bronzer, Pauly D's casting was clinched because he owned a tanning booth in his own house, and The Situation's first move upon arriving for interviews with producers was to whip off his shirt.

* Wrestlemania month brought forth quite a bit of good wrestling-related writing, including this profile of The Undertaker by The Ringer's Thomas Golianopoulos.  For a related and really weird viewing experience, I suggest checking out YouTube for footage of "Mean Mark" in his early WCW days, when he's managed by (of all people) Paul Heyman himself in his old "Paul E. Dangerously" persona.  I should note that last year, I wrote a post about Undertaker's seeming retirement, though it appears as though he'll still periodically pop up for matches now and then, albeit shorter matches as a nod to his new hip and his fiftysomething age.  Given his gimmick, perhaps it isn't surprising that Undertaker wouldn't ever officially bury his career.

* And finally, there's the highlight of this OPW, a profile of Cody Rhodes by The Ringer's Mike Piellucci that looks at Rhodes' determination to prove his potential while working on the independent wrestling circuit and outside of WWE's sphere.  Now, wrestling for NJPW (the world's second-biggest wrestling company) may be cheating a bit in terms of the "independent" idea, not to mention joining an already-established and red-hot faction in the Bullet Club.  Even still, it's a great piece about Cody, his career, his life, and his at-times-problematic amount of extra pressure on him as Dusty Rhodes' son.  It's an interesting contrast with the Undertaker profile, in fact, as an example of how major success in pro wrestling is always just one gimmick or storyline away.  Mark Calaway got an amazing character in 1990 and absolutely made the most of it all the way to WWE immortality, while Rhodes never got a full crack in the main event, perhaps to WWE's detriment.  Who knows how many huge stars fans have missed out on because of bad timing, bad luck, or Vince McMahon's whims?

Friday, April 20, 2018

Strawman Argument

More and more restaurants are now serving drinks without straws. I realize and appreciate the environmental benefits of this decision....but yeah, I'd much rather have a straw than drink directly from a glass that countless people have used in the past.

Should I start bringing my own straws to restaurants, or would that be too much of a finicky, Niles Crane-ish move? Apparently there are such things as portable, reusable glass or metal straws that people can carry around for just such an occasion. But then I'd have to take the onus on myself to properly wash and maintain said straw, not to mention withstand the public barbs that would be leveled my way literally every time I used it in public. The person or people I'd be eating with would respond with (at best) an eyeroll, and at worst, open mockery.

I fully admit that this is a silly concern of mine. Last night I was at a straw-less pub and, when I asked for a straw, the server simply brought me one. Also, it occurs to me that drinking from a heavily-used glass is no different than eating with heavily-used cutlery, though I'm not about to start bringing plastic knives and forks to restaurants. 

So, this whole post was pretty pointless. Content!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Sky Full Of Song

Florence & The Machine's new album is out in June, and here's the first single.  Short review --- I like it!  It's nice and low-key.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

NBA Playoff Predictions

For the first time ever, the NBA playoffs are...up in the air?  What is usually the most predictable bracket of all now actually carries quite a bit of uncertainty this season.  A fourth straight Cleveland vs. Golden State Finals would be an upset at this point, and you can make a solid case in 6.5 of the 8 first-round matchups that the lower seed will win.  Could be one of the few (only?) times in NBA history that we'll see a bunch of crazy upsets, and a truly unexpected Finals?

* Raptors over Wizards in seven
It would take this kind of wacky season to give the Raptors a legitimate shot at winning the Eastern Conference, though as good as they've been all season, there are two strong reasons for doubt.  One is a basketball reason: Toronto's bench depth won't matter as much in a short series where the teams have plenty of rest, thus leaving matters largely in the hands of the Raps' starting five.  One is a narrative reason: are the Raptors really going to make the NBA Finals?  Really?  It's hard to get too bold about a team that has its two best players perform inconsistently (to be kind) every postseason, and all the bench depth in the world won't overcome another vanishing act from DeMar DeRozan or Kyle Lowry.  While I fully expect the Raptors to make this series harder than it needs to be on themselves, their problems may not quite be as dire as Washington's twin issues of a) John Wall not being 100% and b) the Wiz playing better when Wall is out of action entirely since his teammates may or may not all hate him.

* Cavaliers over Pacers in seven
LeBron James has carried garbage Cavs teams to the Finals before (2007, 2015) but this would be his greatest carry job yet, given the potential strength of the rest of the East.  The Cavaliers have LeBron, Kevin Love and... *tumbleweed GIF*  They cannot play defense whatsoever, and thus if every game is going to devolve into a shootout, the Cavs are simply going to eventually be outgunned by teams who have more than three good players (LeBron counts as two guys).  Indiana, however, is not one of those teams, as they basically have Victor Oladipo's outta-nowhere superstar season and little else.  It'll go seven games since these two teams really aren't too different from each other, and with LBJ ultimately being the difference-maker since he'll be damned if he goes out in the first round. 

* Bucks over Celtics in seven
a.k.a. Giannis Antetokounmpo's coming-out party.  It is very possible that Brad Stevens can coach rings around the actual mannequin Milwaukee has on its sideline and lead his depleted team into the second round, though part of me feels that the Bucks won out by facing a Boston club at its lowest ebb.  This is the series that Giannis cements himself as a top-10 player in the league.
 
* 76ers over Heat in six
The Sixers' transformation from doormat into Finals contender in just one season has been stunning, and I probably don't need to remind you that we've already seen one Philadelphia team go from mediocre to champion in this very year.  Miami is a well-coached, veteran team that will definitely give the Philly youngbloods some wakeup calls, but I think the 76ers simply have too much talent.

* Rockets over Timberwolves in five
There really isn't much difference between the Rockets and Raptors in a narrative sense, with the exception being that Houston was just so dominant in the regular season that people have made them the prohibitive favourite despite some bad karma.  Forget about DeRozan and Lowry....James Harden, Chris Paul, and Mike D'Antoni have a long history of postseason failures on their resume.  It won't hurt them in the first round since Minnesota is clearly overmatched, except I can see the Rockets losing one game in goofy fashion to let the whispers continue into round 2.  Frankly, the "will they choke?" narrative will only go away if they beat the Warriors and/or win the title.

* Thunder over Jazz in seven
Man, I'm picking a lot of these series to go the limit.  Here's another close one, based solely on the fact that the great Donovan Mitchell may still be a bit young to carry a team by himself.  There's too much veteran talent on the other side between Paul George and Mr. Triple-Double.
 
* Warriors over Spurs in six
Wait, "and/or"?  Is there really a chance the long-assumed Golden State/Houston West finals doesn't happen?  It'd still be surprising if it didn't, but the Warriors looked way better going into the last three postseasons than they do here.  Steph Curry is out until the second round, and even then, may not be 100 percent when he does return.  Draymond Green has looked a step off all season.  Golden State's bench depth is non-existent, so if another injury hits, they could be screwed.  These are all some legitimate question marks for a team that has been treating the regular season like a dress rehearsal, and it's rare to just completely flip the switch in such a fashion for the playoffs.  I'm giving San Antonio two games here out of sheer respect for Gregg Popovich, even though the Spurs are still very much the inferior roster.  This has been a rough year for us Kawhi Leonard fans, as Kawhi seems to have taken his "Phantom" nickname seriously.  I have to believe that Leonard won't be a Spur for much longer given the apparent gulf between he and the franchise, so it truly becomes a shame that we'll never see a proper full-strength Spurs vs. full-strength Warriors playoff matchup during Golden State's dynasty era.

* Pelicans over Trail Blazers in seven
After playing up how unpredictable these playoffs could be, I've only picked one upset so far, and Bucks-over-Celtics isn't really an upset given Boston's sudden lack of Kyrie Irving.  So I'll break the chalk and predict another playoff coming-out party, this time for Anthony Davis.  The Pelicans responded to the loss of Boogie Cousins in two fashions.  Firstly, they just kept an incredible pace to their offense and tried to simply run other teams into the ground, which is probably what just about any undermanned team should do.  Secondly, Davis went supernova and single-handedly kept this team afloat.  After years as a bit of a forgotten man in New Orleans, you have to wonder if Davis is a little annoyed at all the hype given to other "next LeBron" stars and is eager to not let this rare playoff appearance go to waste.  This series is a coin flip, but sorry Portland.


* Cavaliers over Raptors in six
* 76ers over Bucks in six
* Rockets over Thunder in seven
* Warriors over Pelicans in six

* 76ers over Cavaliers in seven
* Warriors over Rockets in seven

NBA Finals: Psych!  Golden State wins it again, beating the upstart Sixers in (appropriately) six games.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Superstition Street

It was on this day 45 years ago that Stevie Wonder appeared on an episode of "Sesame Street" and tore. It. Up.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Stanley Cup Predictions

* Nashville over Colorado in five
It might seem weird to spend most of this paragraph talking about an unrelated team, but whatever, this series is an easy call.  And, between the Roy and Subban trades, a Nashville vs. Colorado is a perfect place to discuss/laugh at the ongoing trainwreck that is the Montreal Canadiens.  It blows my mind that they're apparently sticking with Bergevin and Julien, and not giving this team the total housecleaning it so desperately needs.  In the last three seasons, the Habs have twice missed the playoffs and been a first-round knockout the one year they did make it --- can you imagine a Canadiens franchise ever standing for this kind of mediocrity?  It blows my mind.

* Winnipeg over Minnesota in seven
Great underrated regional rivalry here, as Minneapolis is the closest NHL city to Winnipeg.  I'm still not entirely sold on the Jets as a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.  They seem like the typical "one year away" sort of team that has a big season to announce itself on the scene, but is still missing a piece or two.  I may be underrating the Jets or overrating the Wild in predicting a seven-gamer here, but I think it'll be tight.

* Anaheim over San Jose in six
The Ducks were my preseason Stanley Cup pick, so I might as well at least take them to get out of the first round, especially when they're facing such notable chokers as the Sharks.  Prescient as always, let's note that my predictions included the Rangers as Anaheim's finals opponent, plus the likes of the Oilers, Blackhawks, Stars, Canadiens, and Panthers all making the playoffs.  Smooth Jimmy Apollo's got nothing on me!

* (Las) Vegas over Los Angeles in seven
Conventional wisdom said that the Golden Knights would be the usual terrible expansion team, and then conventional wisdom said that they wouldn't keep up their hot start, or that they'd make the playoffs, or win the division.  And now, the same pundits are making the Kings a popular upset pick for the first round.  To this I say, oh ye of little faith!  I'm sorry, what makes L.A. particularly impressive?  Their 50 years of NHL experience over Vegas won't make a lick of difference since I just think the Knights are better.

* Pittsburgh over Philadelphia in six
The Eagles' Super Bowl and the 76ers' potential status as Finals contenders gives me some pause that we're living through a Philly sports renaissance, but on paper, this isn't a tough matchup for the Penguins.  I don't want to say that the defending champs caught a break but....well, they totally caught a break.  The Flyers aren't bringing much to the table here aside from an interstate hatred.

* Washington over Columbus in six
This one could be tricky, as it's not out of the realm of possibility that Sergei Bobrovsky stands on his head to steal a series.  If there's any team the Blue Jackets could upset, it's definitely the notoriously choke-loving Capitals.  I'll go chalk here since I'm a chicken with basically all of these predictions, but this one gives me some significant pause.

* Tampa Bay over New Jersey in five
Easy series here for the Lightning, so I'll take the space to rant about the NHL's stupid playoff structure.  There is some major lopsidedness going on when you arrange the bracket by divisions.  Going by point totals, the East is 1 vs. 8, 2 vs. t3, 5 vs. 6, and t3 vs. 7.  This is certainly not fair to the Bruins and Maple Leafs, and it really isn't even fair for the Lightning, to have to face one of these titans in the second round instead of in the Eastern final.  The sooner the NHL decides to re-adopt the old playoff format the better.

* Toronto over Boston in six
Yes, the Leafs have more or less owned the Bruins in recent games.  Yes, 2013 was a long time ago and the Leafs roster is almost entirely different.  Yes, the Leafs have essentially had three months to prepare for either the Bruins or Lightning, since the stupid playoff structure made the Atlantic's seeding a foregone conclusion weeks ago (aside from that brief spell when it looked like Toronto might still steal first overall).  But man, this is a nervous matchup for Maple Leafs fans simply based on all the history between these two teams.  The Leafs have been so good, and so promising this season, and to have them dropped in the first round again, and to the Bruins of all teams, would be seen as a real disappointment.  Even I'd be let down, and I still think Toronto is also in the "still a year away" department. 

Still, this was my preferred matchup of the two Atlantic powers.  I have little confidence that the Leafs can beat Tampa, but I can definitely see them topping Boston.  In my head, the Leafs got their playoff jitters out of the way last year and are now ready to make some noise in the second round.  Go Leafs go!


* Nashville over Winnipeg in seven
* Anaheim over Vegas in six
* Pittsburgh over Washington in six
* Tampa Bay over Toronto in six (sigh)

* Nashville over Anaheim in six
* Tampa Bay over Pittsburgh in seven

Stanley Cup Finals: In the battle of warm-weather hockey markets, I'll pick the Predators to get over the hump and top the Lightning in seven games.  Nashville vs. Tampa Bay was actually my preseason pick for the 2016-17 Finals, so maybe I was just a year early.  Rangers fans are desperately hoping this pattern repeats itself next season.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Will & Joel Vs. Art

Art the concept, not, like, Art Garfunkel.

I love that there is literally no difference between spoofs of abstract act that you might see on, with a nod to Will Ferrell, SNL or something to make fun of the bizarre concepts, and actual abstract art.  I mean, the Hammer Museum spent real money, time, and energy putting this exhibit together, and it is completely bonkers nonsense.

Perhaps the greatest bit of artistic merit on display here is Will Ferrell's sense of humour, as he even made Joel McHale legitimately crack up.  It's hard to get someone with McHale's practiced sense of being too cool for school to break that persona, but Ferrell does it multiple times.  The GOAT!
 

Monday, April 02, 2018

Out On The Simpsons


It all started with a schedule error.  I thought that The Simpsons was returning from Christmas hiatus on January 14 rather than January 7, and so I didn’t even realize I’d missed the 1/7/18 airing until glancing at a Wikipedia list of Simpsons episodes.  The description (Lisa meets a kid voiced by Ed Sheeran that I’m guessing essentially is Ed Sheeran) didn’t fill me with anticipation, so I put it on the back-burner.

The actual January 14th episode featured Professor Frink coming up with a Doomsday Ark to save Springfield from an unspecified future apocalypse.  The idea stems from Mr. Burns getting spooked by an old Orson Welles documentary, which gives frequent voice guest Maurice LaMarche the opportunity to once again bust out his Welles impression, and I once again pause to marvel at the long careers of the top voice actors and how much LaMarche has been able to work due to his Welles impression alon.  He was the voice of The Brain, for god’s sakes!

LaMarche aside, I found my attention during the episode….wandering.  As I recall, I had some work to do that evening and decided about halfway through the ep that I really needed to stop procrastinating.

And that was it for me and the Simpsons.  After over 25 years of faithfully watching every single episode, I’m tapping out.  (Not to be confused with The Simpsons: Tapped Out.)  I did threaten to walk back when it looked like Harry Shearer might be quitting the voice cast, though rather than another kind of “big event” reason to give up, it just wound up being simple apathy.  Now a half-dozen episodes have passed and it’ll be harder and harder to catch up, and Homer-esque ennui is setting in, knowing that I’ll never catch up.

Obligatory “the Simpsons is still funny” comment here, and the also-obligatory “it’s not as good as it was in the golden age of seasons 3-11, but even still” follow-up.  The issue isn’t a lack of laughs, however.  In a perhaps even more damnable indictment than simply not being funny anymore, it’s been a while since I’ve found Simpsons episodes to be memorable.  I can’t remember the last time I recommended that someone watch a previous week’s Simpsons episode because it was a true classic.  Honestly, maybe as much as the last 10 seasons have gone by in more or less a blur.  Watching The Simpsons became just a thing to do, a routine, occasionally a chore, rather than a program I was anxious to watch on any given Sunday night or Monday morning.

I realize that I’m one of the few who actually stuck with the show all these years.  Literally all of my friends moved on from the new episodes ages ago, and my recent decision has led to a universal response of “wait, you were STILL watching every week?!”  It’s Simpsons, man!  It’s the show that has made an incalculable influence on my personality, sense of humour, and view of the world.  Part of me deep down hoped that the show would have a (very) late-career renaissance, and return to its A+ form once more, though that may be an unrealistic ask.  I feel like reinventing the show too much in an effort to make it “better” would really make the show worse in the big picture, since then it wouldn’t be The Simpsons anymore.  There truly is no single greatest victim of its success in TV history than this show, as an astounding 18 YEARS have elapsed since the peak, and even then, you’ll definitely get some criticism from the fanbase about when specifically the Simpsons jumped the shark.*

* = my vote is Season 11, which is uneven in the first half of the season and also includes the first legitimate run of bad episodes in Simpsons history.  Everything from Saddlesore Galactica through Pygmoelian (four episodes) ranges from weak to terrible.  The 10th season is probably the real instance where you started to see weak episodes pop up, but S11 was the first time legit “this episode stinks” comments started to be made.

So I’m checking out on The Simpsons and now just gained an extra 21 minutes of my life every week.  Needless to say, I will be back for the last few episodes whenever the show finally does decide to end its run….so I might not ever watch again, since the Simpsons will outlive us all.  Forget Professor Frink, the program itself is the real Doomsday Ark.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Conan & Jordan & Italy

I mean, in theory Jordan breaking character kind of "ruins" the gimmick of the whole schtick.  But in a way, it makes it even funnier.  First of all, we've seen Jordan break his stone face on multiple times in the past --- there's even one in this video when Conan busts out the "sucking at my teat" line.  Secondly, when he totally loses it at the 6:30 mark, I feel what we get next is a glimpse into what the actual relationship between Conan and Jordan is like.  It's all good-natured jibes back and forth and you can tell these two are good friends.  To be frank, I suspect Jordan (who isn't a trained actor, by the way) might break up a lot during these segments and they just edit it out, but this was whole segment was too funny to leave on the cutting room floor. 

And to think, Jordan finally loses it when Conan is just staring at him!  It was the Schlansky look itself that broke Schlansky himself!  I'm going to love this Italy special.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

History Of The Markademy Awards (updated again!)

It's been two years and two lavish ceremonies since my last update, so here's the latest look at Markademy Award history.  I really should go back and fill in the blanks for the pre-2008 acting categories, but that's a fun trip down memory lane best saved for when I have loads of free time.

2017: The Florida Project
Lady Bird, The Meyerowitz Stories, Get Out, Phantom Thread, Spider-Man: Homecoming
Acting awards: Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird), Daniel Day-Lewis (Phantom Thread), Hong Chau (Downsizing), Richard Jenkins (The Shape Of Water)

2016: Everybody Wants Some!!
Moonlight, Hell Or High Water, Captain America: Civil War, La La Land, Fences, 20th Century Women
Acting awards: Annette Bening (20th Century Women), Denzel Washington (Fences), Kate McKinnon (Ghostbusters), Ralph Fiennes (A Bigger Splash)

2015: Mad Max: Fury Road
Spotlight, The Martian, Anomalisa, Carol, Me And Earl And The Dying Girl, The Big Short
Acting awards: Brie Larson (Room), Paul Dano (Love & Mercy), Kristen Stewart (The Clouds Of Sils Maria), Sylvester Stallone (Creed)

2014: Birdman
Force Majeure, Edge Of Tomorrow, Boyhood, Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Acting awards: Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl), Chadwick Boseman (Get On Up), Tilda Swinton (Snowpiercer), JK Simmons (Whiplash)

2013: The Wolf Of Wall Street
Her, Short Term 12, 12 Years A Slave, All Is Lost, Gravity, Frances Ha
Acting awards: Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), Leonardo DiCaprio (Wolf of Wall Street), Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine), Jonah Hill (Wolf of Wall Street)

2012: Life Of Pi
Les Miserables, Moonrise Kingdom, Cloud Atlas, Django Unchained
Acting awards: Marion Cotillard (Rust & Bone), Jack Black (Bernie), Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables), Samuel L. Jackson (Django Unchained)

2011: Midnight In Paris
Hugo, Bridesmaids, The Artist, A Separation, Young Adult
Acting awards: Michelle Williams (My Week With Marilyn), Leonardo DiCaprio (J. Edgar), Amy Ryan (Win Win), John Hawkes (Martha Marcy May Marlene)

2010: Exit Through The Gift Shop
The Social Network, Toy Story 3, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Inception, Winter's Bone, The Other Guys, Another Year
Acting awards: Natalie Portman (Black Swan), Colin Firth (The King's Speech), Marion Cotillard (Inception), John Hawkes (Winter's Bone)

2009: Inglourious Basterds
A Single Man, In The Loop, A Serious Man, I Love You Man, The Hurt Locker, The Fantastic Mr. Fox
Acting awards: Gabby Sidibe (Precious), Colin Firth (A Single Man), Julianne Moore (A Single Man), Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)

2008: The Dark Knight
The Wrestler, Slumdog Millionaire, Happy-Go-Lucky, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Stepbrothers
Acting awards: Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky), Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler), Frances McDormand (Burn After Reading), Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)

2007: Once
No Country For Old Men, Walk Hard, 3:10 To Yuma, Sweeney Todd, The Bourne Ultimatum, Hot Fuzz

2006: The Prestige
Pan's Labyrinth, Children Of Men, The Departed, A Prairie Home Companion

2005: Batman Begins
Good Night And Good Luck, Match Point, Sin City, The 40-Year-Old Virgin

2004: Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
The Incredibles, Spider-Man II, Closer, Kill Bill (Part Two)

2003: Love Actually
21 Grams, Kill Bill (Part One), Bad Santa, Old School

2002: Talk To Her
Minority Report, Adaptation., Catch Me If You Can, The Bourne Identity,

2001: Memento
Amelie, Moulin Rouge, Ocean's Eleven, Zoolander

2000: Unbreakable
High Fidelity, Best In Show, Cast Away, Waydowntown

1999: The Talented Mr. Ripley
Galaxy Quest, Magnolia, Being John Malkovich, Three Kings, American Beauty, The Insider, Election, Sleepy Hollow, Office Space

1998: The Big Lebowski
Shakespeare In Love, A Simple Plan, Zero Effect, There's Something About Mary, Run Lola Run, Pleasantville

1997: Jackie Brown
L.A. Confidential, Titanic, Wag The Dog, Chasing Amy

1996: Fargo
Hamlet, Lone Star, The Rock, Kingpin

1995: Dead Man Walking
Apollo 13, Toy Story, Heat, The American President

1994: Pulp Fiction
Trois Couleurs: Red, The Shawshank Redemption, Speed, Dumb and Dumber, Trois Couleurs: White

1993: Short Cuts
Dazed & Confused, Groundhog Day, The Sandlot, Trois Couleurs: Blue, The Fugitive

1992: Unforgiven
A League Of Their Own, A Few Good Men, Noises Off, Wayne's World

1991: The Silence Of The Lambs
The Fisher King, Terminator 2, Beauty and the Beast, Defending Your Life

1990: Edward Scissorhands
Goodfellas, The Grifters, Back To The Future III, Miller's Crossing

1989: Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade
Do The Right Thing, Field Of Dreams, Jesus of Montreal, When Harry Met Sally, Batman, Back To The Future II, Road House

1988: A Fish Called Wanda
The Thin Blue Line, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Die Hard, The Naked Gun, The Last Temptation Of Christ, The Accidental Tourist, Rattle & Hum, Rain Man

1987: The Princess Bride
Planes Trains & Automobiles, Predator, Roxanne, The Last Emperor

1986: Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Platoon, Highlander, Big Trouble In Little China, The Fly

1985: Back To The Future
Fletch, Witness, Anne Of Green Gables, Clue

1984: Ghostbusters
This Is Spinal Tap, Stop Making Sense, The Muppets Take Manhattan, All Of Me

1983: The Dresser
A Christmas Story, Trading Places, Monty Python's Meaning Of Life, Never Say Never Again

1982: Tootsie
E.T., Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Rocky III

1981: Raiders Of The Lost Ark
Chariots Of Fire, Ragtime, Gallipoli, Blow Out

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Hot! Live! Music!

Johnny Marr, "How Soon Is Now"
I've never been much of a Smiths fan, largely because most of their songs sound like tuneless meandering from Morrissey rather than awesome fuzz-rock jams like this one.  It's one of the great near-misses in rock history that the Smiths thought so relatively little of this song that they didn't even release it on a proper record, instead sloughing it off as a B-side.  It became such a cult hit that the band eventually released it, and HSIN became arguably the best-known Smiths song.  

Bruce Springsteen, "Royals"
Bruce performed alongside the Wallflowers at the 1998 MTV Video Awards, and I believe it was Bill Simmons who noted that Bruce so utterly and totally owned "One Headlight" that it must've been disheartening for Jakob Dylan to just stand there and watch another musician completely dominate (yet elevate) your own song.  I can maybe see Lorde feeling the same way after watching this, though she can always just go back to being Stan Marsh on a full-time basis.

Bruce Springsteen, "Stayin' Alive"
The Bee Gees don't need to adopt the persona of a middle-aged cartoon character in the wake of a Bruce cover since their original version is legit one of the best songs of all time.  Even still...man, Bruce is just the best cover artist of all time.  In a related story, the How Did This Get Made episode about the film "Stayin' Alive" (the Saturday Night Fever sequel directed by, you guessed it, Sly Stallone) is one of their best podcasts ever.

Radiohead, "Lotus Flower"
I'm going to see Radiohead this summer, yayyyyy!  If they play this song live, I'm going to shriek like a teenage girl at a Beatles concert, yayyyyyy!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Johnny Come Lately

That “academy award” man is coming to town!  You’ll go for Jimmy as he goes all out for three gals in a jam…And William Cagney’s production really makes the story tick!  C’mon people!  This is for you!

This vaguely threatening tagline can be found on the poster for “Johnny Come Lately,” a 1943 film starring the great James Cagney.  I recently saw this poster and found basically everything about that tagline hilarious, in no small part because it’s very fun to read aloud in an old-timey radio announcer voice.

What struck me as interesting is that technically, it really isn’t all that different from today’s movie promotions.  You often see posters or trailers with credits like “from the producers of…” or stars denoted as “Academy Award winner” or nominee.*  The difference was that back in the day, they were just way less subtle about it.

* = I always love it when a trailer lists 4-5 actors who are all Oscar winners or nominees, and then one person who isn’t.  To use something like Shape Of Water as an example, you have the list of Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, and Richard Jenkins all as past Oscar nominees or winners…and then poor Michael Stuhlbarg.  It makes you think “hmm, maybe you should’ve worked a bit harder, eh, Mike?”  (Of course, the irony of this example is that Stuhlbarg could or should have a couple of nominations to his name already, but c’est la vie.)

Personally, I think “Academy Award man” is a much funnier designation than boring ol’ “Oscar winner.”  It’s both an accurate description AND it sounds sarcastic at the same time.  Like, if Sam Rockwell drops a glass on the floor, I can see Leslie Bibb rolling her eyes and slow-clapping while going “nice work, Academy Award man.” 

That said, wow, the ego on William Cagney.  You don’t really see too many well-known film people nowadays who are famous just for being producers.  Off the top of my head, I guess there’s Harvey Wei….oh, uh, um, er, ah, maybe he’s famous for something else now.  Anyway, back in the day, you often had producers held up as stars in their own right, much moreso than directors.  For instance, David O. Selznick was held up as the major creative force behind Gone With The Wind, whereas director Victor Fleming was more or less seen as a hired hand who got that difficult shoot across the finish line.

That was Selznick, however, a major Hollywood name with a long list of credits under his belt.  By comparison, this was William Cagney’s first film as a sole producer, as the proprietor of William Cagney Productions.  If you’re wondering, yes, William and James were brothers, and apparently they even looked virtually identical.  Looks like Hollywood definitely missed the boat on a middle-aged version of The Parent Trap, but my main point is, ol’ William apparently couldn’t resist the urge to give himself a bit of extra promotion on Johnny Come Lately’s poster.  After all, John Van Druten was only an accomplished playwright and screenwriter (he wrote Gaslight the very next year), and director William K. Howard had a long and distinguished career of over 50 movies.  But yeah, it was definitely William Cagney’s production that “really makes the story tick.”  Ah, nepotism!  

I should note that I haven’t actually seen the film, and going just by Wikipedia plot summaries can be a fool’s errand.  But it’s worth noting that “You’ll go for Jimmy as he goes all out for three gals in a jam” doesn’t really seem to be what the movie is about.  Firstly, from a grammatical standpoint, that line seems to use the word ‘go’ one too many times.  Secondly, as per Wikipedia, here’s the synopsis for Johnny Come Lately…

In 1906, Tom Richards (James Cagney), a drifter, arrives in Plattsville and befriends newspaper proprietor Vinnie McLeod (Grace George), who is battling the corruption of the town's leading citizen W.M. Dougherty (Edward McNamara). He takes over as managing editor of the Plattsville "Shield and Banner" and, despite initial resistance from the oppressed citizens, finally drives Dougherty out of town.

So I guess Vinnie (short for…Vinessa?) is one of the “three gals in a jam,” but it seems like Cagney is really helping the entire town rather than two unspecified other gals.  Isn’t helping an entire town more of an impressive feat?  Also, man, in this day and age of newspapers cutting staff left and right, journalism jobs were so plentiful back in 1906 that editorial posts could be handed out to even the common drifter.  This still could technically happen — I applied for a writing job for a local paper in a small town in Northern Ontario years ago, and it quickly became apparent during the interview that the “writing job” was really running the entire operation.  But still, at least at the time I had some experience on my resume; I didn’t just start hanging out with the paper’s owner and schmoozed my way to a gig.  And I didn’t drift into town, I drove in via my super-cool Toyota Echo.

The IMDB summary is even better.  It’s just “Newspaper man wanders about and helps older woman save her paper.”  Brevity!  Maybe instead of Johnny Come Lately, it should’ve been Johnny Newspaperseed, with Cagney wandering across America to bail out papers in all manner of small towns.

Whatever the summary, if this poster has inspired you to check out a no-idea-if-it’s-good 1940’s film, then be my guest.  You can try to find the movie on….

C’MON PEOPLE!

…whoa, easy poster.  I was just getting around to…

THIS IS FOR YOU!

They know it’s for them, poster!  They appreciate all the hard work that went into the film, they really do!  No, poster, what are you doing?  Put down that knife!  No poster, nooooooooooooo!

Fun fact: the porno version of this film is also titled Johnny Come Lately.  He also, er, helps three women out of a jam, not to give away too many plot details.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

YoKevinzuna Hart & SumO'Brien

Gotta go with the NSFW tag on this one, since yikes, some of those sumo dudes in high-def.  Not to say I'd look any better, but man, the mawashi doesn't leave much to the imagination.  Also, my apologies if the glare off Conan's pasty torso blows out your monitor's brightness settings.  Here's the original sketch, plus the outtakes, and I'm working on a petition to remake all of Laurel & Hardy's movies with Hart & O'Brien. 


Friday, March 16, 2018

The March Holiday Rush

Sorry I haven’t been posting much lately.  It’s been due to my multiple daily trips to Hallmark to get greeting cards for the onslaught of wacky March holidays, all of which just pile together in a nonstop parade until you just wish Flanders was dead.

The list…

March 14, Pi Day
: What better way to celebrate the legendary mathematical constant 3.14159265358979323846264338327950288419716939937510582097494459230781640628620899862803482534211706798214808651328230664709384460955058223172535940812848111745028410270193852110555964462294895493038196442881097566593344612847564823378678316527120190914564856692346034861045432664821339360726024914127372458700660631558817488152092096282925409171536436789259036001133053054882046652138414695194151160943305727036575959195309218611738193261179310511854807446237996274956735188575272489122793818301194912983367336244065664308602139494639522473719070217986094370277053921717629317675238467481846766940513200056812714526356082778577134275778960917363717872146844090122495343014654958537105079227968925892354201995611212902196086403441815981362977477130996051870721134999999837297804995105973173281609631859502445945534690830264252230825334468503526193118817101000313783875288658753320838142061717766914730359825349042875546873115956286388235378759375195778185778053217122680661300192787661119590921642019893809525720106548586327886593615338182796823030195203530185296899577362259941389124972177528347913151557485724245415069595082953311686172785588907509838175463746493931925506040092770167113900984882401285836160356370766010471018194295559619894676783744944825…..well, you get the picture, by giving Pi its own holiday on 3/14?

March 15, Ides Of March Day
: Ok, maybe “holiday” is an odd way to mark the day Julius Caesar was assassinated.  It’s generally bad form to celebrate assassinations in any way, frankly, even though Boxing Day was founded after Gerald Boxing of Birmingham, UK was killed when he was using a outhouse and a hot air balloon crashed into it on December 26, 1837.  It was such a hilarious day to go out that we’ve remembered poor Gerry ever since.  That’s why so many cities have the traditional balloon race every December 26, plus every country sends its most accomplished strongman for the annual “outhouse toss.”  Anyway, I hope you celebrated the Ides by eating a Caesar salad and washing it down with a Caesar cocktail.

March 16, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin Day: Austin 3/16 says I just took a non-denominational bank holiday on your ass!  Like drinking a Caesar on March 15, the traditional way to celebrate Austin day also involves beverages, namely opening two cans or bottles and pouring the contents into your mouth while holding the cans/bottles at arm’s length over your head.

March 17, St. Patrick’s Day: Not much is known about this obscure Irish holiday.  It may have been founded after Lester Patrick, 44-year-old coach of the New York Rangers, had to personally take over as goaltender during a 1928 Stanley Cup Finals game after the regular starter suffered an eye injury.  Patrick played well the rest of the game and the Rangers went on to win.  (Imagine the headlines if this happened today.). However, as amazing as this scenario was, it probably wasn’t the sole inspiration for the holiday since according to my exhaustive research, there has never been a Stanley Cup Finals game played in Ireland.  That said, the Maple Leafs were known as the St. Patricks before taking on their current name. 

As always, a discussion of St. Patrick’s Day has devolved into a discussion of old-timey hockey history.

March 18: This one is more of a personal milestone, as it’s my parents’ anniversary.  To my knowledge, neither Lester Patrick, Steve Austin, or Gerald Boxing were involved in setting my parents up, nor did my folks meet while in a math class.  Granted, a scenario where their eyes lock over a row of digits and my dad goes “baby, you’re the only constant I need” is pretty romantic.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Oh Hi, Batman

Todd Phillips needs to scrap his plans for a Joker origin story prequel and just claim that "The Room" was that origin story

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

The 2017 Markademy Awards

It’s a known fact that Katherine Hepburn’s last words were, verbatim, “I would’ve happily melted my four Academy Awards into a necklace spelling out the words ‘OSCARS ARE FOR LOSERS’ just to have been nominated for a Markademy Award.”  Now, Katherine Hepburn famously didn’t give a damn about the Oscars so that part about the necklace might’ve actually been true.  But the part about her coveting a Markademy Award is 1000% true.

Culled from a field of the 89 movies (!) with official 2017 release dates that I saw in theatres and on Netflix this year, here are the best of the best, the creme de la creme.  For instance…


BEST DIRECTOR
Actual nominees: Paul Thomas Anderson/Phantom Thread, Guillermo Del Toro/The Shape Of Water, Greta Gerwig/Lady Bird, Christopher Nolan/Dunkirk, Jordan Peele/Get Out
Actual winner: Guillermo Del Toro

Alterna-ballot: Sean Baker/The Florida Project, Noah Baumbach/The Meyerowitz Stories, Luca Guadagnino/Call Me By Your Name, Dee Rees/Mudbound, The Safie Brothers/Good Time
My ballot: Anderson, Baker, Baumbach, Gerwig, Peele
My winner: Jordan Peele

I was very pleased that Jordan Peele went home with something on Oscar night, though am I wrong in believing that his direction was more award-worthy than his script?  Don’t get me wrong, it was a great script, but the film was so expertly shot with a hundred little details and homages to classic horror tropes that I came away more impressed by Peele the director than by Peele the writer.  It’s like, we already knew he could write (via Key & Peele), but the filmmaking was a revelation.  Now I’m wishing Peele had directed “Keanu” and perhaps elevated that movie beyond its only ‘okay’ status.

It was pretty hard to improve upon the actual Best Director slate, which shared three of my five nominees and also had long-overdue nominations for Del Toro and Nolan.  As you’ll note later, Shape Of Water wasn’t one of my true favourites of the year, but Del Toro is obviously a fine filmmaker and he should’ve won an Oscar a decade ago for Pan’s Labyrinth anyway, so I have no issue with him getting one now.  It would’ve been great to see Gerwig and Baumbach actually nominated together since it would’ve made them the first pair of directing nominees to have slept together. 

(Unless anyone has some Karina Longworth-style old-timey Hollywood gossip to share about two former nominees seen canoodling at the Brown Derby.) 

(Or if the Coens shared a bunkbed as a kid.)


BEST ACTOR
Actual nominees: Timothee Chalamet/Call Me By Your Name, Daniel Day-Lewis/Phantom Thread, Daniel Kaluuya/Get Out, Gary Oldman/Darkest Hour, Denzel Washington/Roman J. Israel, Esq.
Actual winner: Gary Oldman

Alterna-ballot: John Cho/Columbus, Bryan Cranston/Wakefield, Robert Pattinson/Good Time, Algee Smith/Detroit, Jason Sudeikis/Colossal
My ballot: Chalamet, Cho, Day-Lewis, Pattinson, Smith
My winner: Daniel Day-Lewis

I love movies that seem entirely predictable based on the trailer or even the film’s first 20-30 minutes, and then they take a “wait, WHAT’s really happening here?!” turn that gradually dawns on, and delights, the viewer.  It occurs to me that Phantom Thread, Wakefield, Good Time, and Colossal all share this distinction, with the latter two films standing out since wow, who knew Pattinson and Sudeikis has those types of performances in them?  (I hesitate to say too much about either film since if you haven’t seen them, the less you know the better, but both are terrific.)  With Detroit, sadly, you know all too well what's going to happen, with Smith's character arc perfectly reflecting the film's horror.  Chalamet would've won had it not been for DDL hitting it out of the park once again, and really, you could make the case that Chalamet had the more difficult role given the complicated nature of the story.  If you remember the old Hollywood Stock Exchange online game, I'd advise you to invest heavily in Chalamet and Smith in the near future.

Since this is DDL’s, ahem, “last movie,” surely he deserves a Markademy Award before he disappears into the Irish countryside.  He also deserves one since this guy is just operating on a higher level than anyone else.  To use the analogy of the movie itself, Day-Lewis often seems less like an actor than a designer given the care he puts into every aspect of his performances.  You can’t compare the originality of DDL’s work in Phantom Thread to the lesser feat of, say, putting on some old-age makeup and pretending to be Winston Churchill.  Just to pull an example out of thin air.


BEST ACTRESS
Actual nominees: Sally Hawkins/The Shape Of Water, Frances McDormand/Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Margot Robbie/I, Tonya, Saoirse Ronan/Lady Bird, Meryl Streep/The Post
Actual winner: Frances McDormand

Alterna-ballot: Anne Hathaway/Colossal, Vicky Krieps/Phantom Thread, Tatiana Maslany/Stronger, Haley Liu Richardson/Columbus, Emma Stone/Battle Of the Sexes
My ballot: Hawkins, Krieps, McDormand, Ronan, Stone
My winner: Saoirse Ronan

Sally Hawkins falls just short of being the first-ever three-time Markademy Award winner, so she’ll remain in the two-trophy club (with Colin Firth, Marion Cotillard, Leonardo DiCaprio, and John Hawkes) for at least one more year.  It is great that between TSOW and, of all movies, Paddington 2, the general public is just beginning to realize how great Hawkins is, and the sky is the limit for her future roles.  Likewise, Frances McDormand seemed to make the leap from “oh yeah, she’s a great actress” to bonafide icon with Three Billboards.  Emma Stone continued to establish herself as a legit star, plus you had the unknown Vicky Krieps leap into prominence, not just breaking out, but breaking out while stealing scenes opposite Daniel Day-Lewis.

My trophy, however, goes to Saoirse Ronan.  It must be odd portraying a character in a semi-autobiographical film when the subject of the autobiography is also your director, though it’s telling how little Christine McPhe…er, Lady Bird has in common with Greta Gerwig (or at least, the “Greta Gerwig” persona we’re familiar with from films and interviews).  Lady Bird McPherson is both shades of every teenage girl you ever went to drama class with and a wholly original character.  Let it be noted that Ronan already has three Oscar nominations by age 23, so if you had to bet on anyone ever breaking Streep’s record, she has to be the (only?) possible favourite at the moment.  She’s the Jordan Spieth to Meryl’s Jack Nicklaus. 


BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Actual nominees: Willem Dafoe/The Florida Project, Woody Harrelson/Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Richard Jenkins/The Shape Of Water, Christopher Plummer/All The Money In The World, Sam Rockwell/Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Actual winner: Sam Rockwell

Alterna-ballot: Paul Walter Hauser/I Tonya, Lil Rel Howery/Get Out, Michael Keaton/Spider-Man: Homecoming, Tracy Letts/Lady Bird, Michael Stuhlbarg/Call Me By Your Name
My ballot: Dafoe, Hauser, Jenkins, Letts, Plummer
My winner: Richard Jenkins

Tough category as always this year, with so many apples-and-oranges picks.  Do you go with some great comedy relief in Howery or Hauser?  A performance that is lacking in screentime but boils down to one amazing monologue (Stuhlbarg or Harrelson)?  A performance that probably has too much screentime and is essentially a co-lead but what the hell, let’s do some category fraud (Rockwell or Dafoe)?  Michael Keaton continuing his late-career renaissance as one of the best Marvel villains ever?

It was a bad idea on many fronts to cast Kevin Spacey in All The Money In The World, but sticking to just the acting for the moment, surely Plummer would’ve been the better choice from the get-go.  As opposed to loading Spacey up in old-age makeup and making the whole performance into a gimmick, why not just cast an actual 86-year-old who still effortlessly bring it?  Plummer is so good that he manages to turn a role that is basically written as “C. Montgomery Burns, but real” into an actual human being.

My choice came down to Letts and Jenkins, both killing it in great low-key benevolent nice guy roles.  They were both supporting and supportive actors.  Between this film and The Post, I’m enjoying Letts’ late-career face turn of suddenly playing decent people after a career of mostly being haughty, upper-class scumbags.  Jenkins takes it by a hair, just because I felt his role was slightly more difficult.  Lady Bird does a fine job of illustrating the complexities of the mother/daughter relationship, but being the father in the middle of that relationship probably isn’t as quite as tough as playing most of your scenes against a co-star who can’t speak and an undersea fish-god.


BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Actual nominees: Mary J. Blige/Mudbound, Allison Janney/I, Tonya, Lesley Manville/Phantom Thread, Laurie Metcalf/Lady Bird, Octavia Spencer/The Shape Of Water
Actual winner: Allison Janney

Alterna-ballot: Hong Chau/Downsizing, Beanie Feldstein/Lady Bird, Betty Gabriel/Get Out, Zoe Kazan/The Big Sick, Sophia Lillis/IT, June Squibb/Table 19, Emma Thompson/The Meyerowitz Stories
My ballot: Chau, Feldstein, Gabriel, Metcalf, Thompson
My winner: Hong Chau

I went over the five-nominee limit on the alternate ballot since this was definitely the most loaded category of the year.  (And also because, to be honest, the Academy’s ballot wasn’t great.  Blige’s nomination was a head-scratcher, and I feel Spencer and Janney could’ve played those parts in their sleep.)  If I’m not mistaken, I also believe we now have the first-ever pair of sibling Markademy Award nominees in Feldstein and Jonah Hill. 

This category again runs a wide gamut, from the young (Lillis) to the old (Squibb), to the playing-against-type (Thompson, as I actually didn’t realize it was her until about halfway through the movie), to those who didn’t have screentime in Gabriel and Kazan.  For Gabriel, she had one big scene to work with and only made it into one of the most iconic scenes of recent years.  For Kazan, she had about 10-15 minutes to get you to fall for her as Kumail did, to understand why she’s worth waiting around for to see if she comes out of that coma. 

Downsizing is one of those missed-opportunity movies that I find fascinating because there’s clearly pieces of a great movies in there, but the execution was just off.  In any sci-fi premise as outlandish as this one, it helps to just focus on one single relationship or aspect within the world so you don’t get bogged down in the “wait, what?” details of how this premise could actually exist.  I think Alexander Payne tried to have his cake and eat it too in trying to make the whole “downsizing” concept explainable rather than just keeping it as big-picture satire, and the movie suffers for it because the viewer immediately has a million questions that poke holes in how this could ever possibly work. 

What might’ve saved the film is if Payne had just focused things around Matt Damon and Hong Chau, the latter of whom totally steals the entire movie in a star-making performance.  In a gimmicky movie, and in a role that could’ve been gimmicky with the broken English and the prosthetic leg, Chau brings a dose of much-needed reality into the mix.  Ngoc Lan Tran has no time for Paul’s mid-life crisis nonsense, and I wish Payne had taken that hint for the movie as a whole.


BEST PICTURE
Actual nominees: Call Me By Your Name/Darkest Hour/Dunkirk/Get Out/Lady Bird/Phantom Thread/The Post/The Shape Of Water/Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri
Actual winner: The Shape Of Water

As always, the following six movies are the ones that leapt the magical “this was good enough to be Best Picture” bar in my head…

1. The Florida Project
2. Lady Bird
3. The Meyerowitz Stories (New And Selected)
4. Get Out
5. Phantom Thread
6. Spider-Man: Homecoming


Come quick words on the runners-up…

* Lady Bird is one of the great coming-of-age stories of our time, and the rare such film that both treats the young character’s desires as understandable and realistic, yet also quite wiling to acknowledge the nonsensical, in-your-own-headedness of being a teenager.  Greta Gerwig is a longtime Markademy Award favourite, and it’s fascinating to watch her evolution from great actress to great writer to now great director.
* I like to think that Baumbach read the script for Lady Bird or saw the dailies or something and realized he had to up his game to avoid getting A Star Is Born-ed, since he stepped up with easily the best of the Ben Stiller Mid-Life Crisis Trilogy — Greenberg was good, While We’re Young was not.  Who knew Adam Sandler had this kind of a performance in him?
* Get Out is one of the rare films I went to see twice in theatre, since it works great if you a) know nothing about it going in, and b) if you know EVERYTHING about it going in, since there is so much to be caught on a repeat viewing.  It is such a novel idea for a movie and perfectly executed. 
* I’ve already talked about Phantom Thread a bit, so I’ll just add that Paul Thomas Anderson really should win an Oscar one of these years.  Hell, I only like about half his movies and even I think the guy is overdue.
* As a Spidey fan since childhood, was it ever great to see Spider-Man once again done well on the big screen.  Aside from the second Sam Raimi movie, the previous Spidey movies have ranged from frustrating to “why is this happening,” and I’m relieved that Sony finally just threw up their collective hands and just handed the creative reins over to Marvel.  I’m beyond fired up for the next generation of Spider-Man movies, not to mention seeing him in the Avengers films and lord knows how many other crossovers with future Marvel projects.

This brings us to the big winner, and I’ll begin with a fun fact.  “The Florida Project” was (thank you, Wikipedia!) Walt Disney’s idea both for his Florida theme parks and a bigger-picture vision of an always-sustainable city of the future, basically Tomorrowland and Epcot Center rolled into one.  In Sean Baker’s film, we essentially get Realityland, a look at lower-class families trying to hustle and get by as best they can while living in a rundown motel just minutes away from Disney World.

Yet, this is also a self-sustaining world.  Moonee and her friends are a bit too young to really understand their situation, though when the veneer begins to crack as the film goes on, Moonee sustains herself through imagination.  Bobby the motel manager sustains himself by just focusing on making the motel the best it can be on a day-to-day basis, while also seemingly trying to make up for his fractured family by acting as a guardian figure to the residents.  Halley also lives in something of a world of make-believe, though her contentment about her life often manifests itself as dangerous given her obliviousness about her parental responsibilities — it seems like Halley would be perfectly happy living at the motel and hanging out with Ashley forever, never realizing until it’s too late that this *isn’t* sustainable.

It’s a fascinating idea for a movie, and one completely grounded in complete normality.  There’s less a strict plot than there is just some of the day-to-day routine of these characters, and the cinema vérité vibe is enhanced by the fact that the cast is mostly comprised of first-time performers.  What an achievement to get such an absorbing movie and a set of performances from people who weren’t even actors, plus Dafoe as the cast’s experienced cornerstone.

Between Florida Project and Tangerine, Sean Baker is on an incredible roll of innovative movies about characters that you basically never see featured in film.  Even in an era when movies like Get Out or Mad Max: Fury Road are getting a lot of Oscar attention, I get the feeling that Florida Project might’ve been just a little too out-there for the Academy, hence its lack of nominations aside from Dafoe.  I heartily urge everyone to check out Florida Project since you’ve probably never seen a movie quite like it, and it also has one of the most creative end sequences in recent memory.  Come on, it’s a Markademy Award winner, how could it NOT be great?

The rest of the films that weren’t quite enough to get into my Best Picture ballot, but all ranged from excellent to very good to good to good-but-not-nearly-as-good-as-if-could’ve-been (looking at you, number 26!)

7. Good Time
8. Colossal
9. Logan
10. The Big Sick
11. Coco
12. Mudbound
13. War For The Planet Of The Apes
14. Baby Driver
15. Landline
16. Detroit
17. The Shape Of Water
18. It
19. Blade Runner 2049
20. Call Me By Your Name
21. Thor: Ragnarok
22. The Disaster Artist
23. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
24. John Wick 2
25. Wakefield
26. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

 

Sunday, March 04, 2018

The Best Movie Scenes Of 2017

A great scene can take place in a great movie, an awful movie, or anything in between.  It can be one line of dialogue, maybe even as simple as a character's glance or even a quick camera cut...or it can be a massive setpiece that lasts for 10 minutes or more, as I stretch the boundaries of what a "scene" exactly is, perhaps compared to what a "sequence" is. 

Anyway, here is my annual compilation of the scenes that most stood out to me over the course of the last cinematic year.  I laughed, I cried, I said "wow" out loud to no one in the theatre. 

SPOILER ALERT for some of these movies, as though I tried to be somewhat vague about some plot details, it couldn't be helped in some cases.

36. The song-and-dance number (The Shape Of Water)
35. Peter goes “sad astronaut” (Rough Night)
34. Mildred’s “Blood vs. Crips” analogy (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
33. K finds his horse (Blade Runner 2049)
32. The Moors and the “Moores” (The Trip To Spain)
31. The chase through the underground mall (Okja)
30. “So what have you been up to?”  “Well…” (Sense Of An Ending)
29. “I’m Mary Poppins, y’all!” (Guardians Of The Galaxy 2)
28. “This Is Me” (The Greatest Showman)
27. Will Oldham’s character’s monologue about the future (A Ghost Story)
26. Thor vs. The Hulk (Thor: Ragnarok)
25. The fight in the mirror exhibit (John Wick 2)
24. Lee and Jeremy run lines (The Hero)
23. The Bishop reads the list of sins (The Little Hours)
22. Captain America’s PSAs (Spider-Man: Homecoming)
21. Luke faces the First Order (Star Wars: The Last Jedi)
20. The two ghosts encounter each other (A Ghost Story)
19. The guys are telling stories about Vietnam (Last Flag Flying)
18. Matt and Danny deliver their speeches (The Meyerowitz Stories)
17. Rey, Kylo Ren, and Snoke (Star Wars: The Last Jedi)
16. Terry’s performance (The Square)
15. Danny and Eliza play “Genius Girl” (The Meyerowitz Stories)
14. The last line and cut to the end credits (Spider-Man: Homecoming)
13. K versus Deckard (Blade Runner 2049)
12. The surprise in the credits (Split)
11. Georgie loses his boat (It)
10. Chris finds the photo album (Get Out)
9. Leadership in Times of Crisis and Change (Dim The Fluorescents)
8. The entire sequence at Adventureland (Good Time)
7. The opening bank robbery escape chase (Baby Driver)
6. John Wick vs. Cassian in the subway (John Wick 2)
5. Elio and his dad have a chat (Call Me By Your Name)
4. Peter and Adrian in the car (Spider-Man: Homecoming)
3. Moonee and Jancey go to Disneyland (The Florida Project)
2. Miguel sings to his grandmother (Coco)
1. Georgina “reassures” Chris (Get Out)

Friday, March 02, 2018

The Worst Movies Of 2017

My "this looks pretty bad, I think I'll skip it" spider-sense for movies just keeps honing itself, and as a result, I actually had a minor bit of difficulty creating this year's bottom 10.  Most of these movies are merely bad, as opposed to outright offensive and terrible.

10. The Foreigner
9. Baywatch
8. Rough Night
7. War On Everyone
6. Brad’s Status
5. Suburbicon
4. The Discovery
3. A Quiet Passion
2. CHiPS
1. The Killing Of A Sacred Deer



ACTING AWARDS!  NOW WITH NEW CATEGORIES!
Worst Supporting Actor: Pierce Brosnan/The Foreigner
Worst Supporting Actress: Jillian Bell/Rough Night
Worst Actress: Scarlett Johansson/Rough Night
Worst Actor: Dax Shepard/CHiPS

*Best Performance In A Bad Movie: three-way tie between Gil Birmingham in Wind River, and Jennifer Lawrence and Michelle Pfeiffer in Mother!
Birmingham's raw performance kept the otherwise dour and predictable Wind River out of the bottom 10 films list.  As for Mother!, wow, this was a new level for Aronofsky in the "interestingly bad" department, as I feel like I could talk about this movie for two hours despite it being a paper-thin allegory and an overall misfire.  J-Law may deserve a bonus award for not just working her hardest to try and save this movie, but also for actually dating Aronofsky and suffering through an endless number of conversations about the film (which, hilariously, was partially why they broke up).  If nothing else comes from Mother!, it may have been worth it only if it kickstarts a late-career Pfeiffer renaissance.

*Worst Performance In A Good Movie: Michael Shannon/The Shape Of Water
In theory, a heightened-reality kind of movie can excuse this type of hammy, cartoonishly evil caricature of a performance.  In practice, Shannon stands out like a sore thumb, especially since the rest of the cast is going the subtle route --- Shannon's overplaying looks silly given that he's so often paired with Michael Stuhlbarg, who is underplaying his role and quietly acting Shannon off the screen.  Ironically, Shannon is usually very good at the kind of increasingly-malevolent menace that would've benefited the role.  If you could magically slot the "Take Shelter" version of Shannon into this movie, TSOW is ten percent better.

*Worst Casting: Bryan Cranston/Last Flag Flying
This is very specific kind of criticism, and one that takes some explanation.  For one, you can easily come up with a dozen better examples of outright bad casting, in the Denise Richards-as-a-nuclear scientist kind of vein.  I also wouldn't even say that Cranston's performance was bad, which is why I didn't hand him any of the "worst acting" awards.
 
My issue was just that Cranston just seemed really out of place playing a ne'er-do-well, living-in-the-pat smart-aleck who was a real wild man in his youth but now seems sad continuing this behaviour into his 50's.  (If I could think of an ideal actor for this part, maybe Sam Rockwell in another 10-15 years.)  I can't really even blame the filmmakers and casting people for the choice since....well, it's Bryan Cranston.  He just may have a couple fewer pitches in his arsenal than everyone thought, and since he couldn't quite pull off the role, it stood out more glaringly than your average casting misfire.  To use another example of co-star context, it didn't help Cranston that Laurence Fishburne and Steve Carell are a) both great in this movie and b) perfectly cast.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Random Nonsense

As found on Twitter, the world is just a cat playing with Australia as a toy.  Vancouver doesn't come off great in this situation, but given the Canucks' recent record...

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I went my whole life without really knowing anything specific about the premise of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, and I'm stunned to learn that it involved five robots joining together to form a larger robot.  Originally I thought that the creators of Voltron would have license to sue the MMPR people into the ground, but hold on!  My friend Craig informed me that the Voltron animated series we all (?) knew and loved from childhood was "actually based on clips cut from more than one earlier Japanese cartoon as a sort of mash-up.  So Voltron likely wouldn't be able to sue anyone for this idea, since it wasn't their idea to begin with."

Wait, so the Voltron series ITSELF was several cartoons joining together to form a larger cartoon?  This is getting pretty meta.  This is like learning that Bob Kane dressed up as a bat to fight crime.

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I have seen the original Ghostbusters movie at least 100 times, yet I only just now realized that during the end credits, Janine is the woman who hugs Egon when they’re all leaving the haunted/trashed apartment building.  I am observant!

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I love that a) Bert from Sesame Street has a Twitter account, and b) he has "RTs do not equal endorsements" in his bio.  Typical cautious Bert, he won't let himself get hijacked by any memes!

Speaking of Sesame Street Twitter accounts (and I may literally be the only one who speaks on the topic), I'm happy to report that the Count has been steadily continuing his tweeted journey to infinity since September 6 of last year.  Perhaps not coincidentally, my last post calling out the Count's latest unexplained Twitter hiatus came on September 5, so I like to think that I shamed him into action.  Interestingly, the Count has been tweeting multiple times per day as of late, so perhaps he's either making up for lost time, or maybe he's speeding up to reach a specified number by a specified date.  Or maybe the Count knows something that we don't know.  Is doomsday approaching?  Is that doomsday for humanity, or just a vampire-centric end of days?  (i.e. the moon turns to garlic)

******************

In other updates from past posts, you can add "Coco" to the list of movies that made me actually cry.  That final scene with the boy and his grandmother was just phenomenal....a good three-quarters of the theatre was openly weeping.  Let me tell you, it's very hard to properly see a screen when you've got 3D glasses on AND you're trying to wipe tears from your eyes.

The full list is now Coco, A Monster Calls, Up, Rudy, and E.T.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Hot! Live! Music!

Postmodern Jukebox, "Teenage Dirtbag"
Oh man, major high school flashbacks on this one.  The video even starred Mena Suvari and Jason Biggs, which is about as Y2K as it gets.  I give a lot of credit to the singer here, who is one of the few vocalists capable of singing in a Joplin-esque style without sounding breaking the try-hard scale.


Robyn Adele Anderson, "Lose Yourself"
RAA here has performed with the Postmodern Jukebox in the past, but now seems to be doing...basically exactly the same kind of performances, except on her own YouTube channel.  I stand by my theory that there was some huge schism between RAA and Postmodern Jukebox that led to this neverending rivalry for old-timey cover song supremacy.  Maybe Scott Bradlee pointed out that she'll always be the second-most famous singer named a) Robyn, and b) Adele, and RAA just became enraged.


Bastille, "Good Grief"
This seems like one of those acoustic performances that probably didn't need the whole band, yet all four were brought in to save any hurt feelings.  All you really need is the singer and a bassist, or maybe just a singer and a percussionist, or maybe even just the singer myself on the keyboard.  Having four instruments along with the vocals makes it sounds less stripped-down than it probably should be, given the effect they were trying to achieve.  Also, why they aren't all dressed like Charlie Brown?


U2, "The Little Things That Give You Away"
Quite a few U2 live performances on talk shows or whatnot fit into the "should be more stripped down" category, as in Larry and Adam don't have much to do.  I feel there's some interesting potential in just Edge and Bono performing the songs....but it's not nearly as all four of them playing at peak awesomeness, a.k.a. this song and its extraordinary build and climax.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Lea Thompson Joke

I wish I could do this more justice, but The Lea Thompson Joke's legend may, in fact, only grow due to the fact that I can't directly remember the circumstances.  All I remember was that my co-worker Ken recently made the single funniest possible Lea Thompson-related joke that anyone has ever made.  NAY, the funniest possible Lea Thompson-related joke that anyone WILL, in all likelihood, EVER make again.  Even better, it was perfectly safe for work --- while I love a good dirty joke as much as anyone, the fact that The Lea Thompson Joke was clean makes it even more impressive, in my opinion.  It didn't need any smut, it was just an absolutely perfect bit of wordplay that relied on a few things…

a) knowledge of Lea Thompson.  Now, I'm assuming that everyone reading this knows who she is, but just in case, here you go.  *pause for cries of OHHHHH, HER and possibly forehead slaps.* 

b) knowledge of Lea Thompson's roles.  Obviously, "Back To The Future."  That's the gimme.  There's also "Caroline In The City," which is still relatively obscure despite being on the air for four (!) seasons and its place as the go-to reference as one of the many lame shows NBC tried to build as a timeslot hit between Friends and Seinfeld.  That said, I knew of the show and Ken knew of the show, hence another reason why the joke landed as it did.  Also, the genesis of the joke began somehow by discussing "Howard The Duck," which is incredibly probably Lea Thompson's third-best known role.  Which leads to...

c) knowledge of Lea Thompson's rather poor career choices.

Okay, so, the joke began with Howard The Duck.  Yes, this movie actually existed.  I've never seen it, but all I know is that it was a huge bomb and that Lea Thompson was involved.  This, by the way, was her follow-up film after breaking out in Back To The Future.  Yikes.

After a few twists and turns and jokes about Lea Thompson's awful roles, it eventually led to me saying that her career had gone so wrong that she was working as a temp at some building in New York.  I want to say FedEx since we had mentioned FedEx in some oblique way earlier.  So, I go, "she's actually working as a temp at FedEx now.  Tough break for Lea."

Ken's reply?  "Well, she is In The City."

And that just killed me.  As I said, it was the perfect storm of wordplay, a clever joke and an audience that both knows the subject and LOVES groan-worthy puns.  And it will go down in history as the greatest possible Lea Thompson Joke.  How would it be matched?  Who would possibly even attempt to match it?

I am fully aware that just reading it on the page, it doesn't sound funny whatsoever.  Whatever.  I'm sure reading about the moon landing, today's kids are like, "whatevs*, astronauts on the moon, I'm over it."  Admittedly I'm not doing the joke justice simply by relating just the last line of the setup and then the punchline, but really, you simply had to be there.  The Lea Thompson Joke will stand forever.  Respect.

* fun fact: 'whatevs' auto-corrects as 'wharves.'

Thursday, February 22, 2018

NBA Play-Ins

Bill Simmons has been blabbing about the "Exciting As Hell Tournament" for years, and now there's actually a chance some version of it might happen.  The NBA is reportedly actually considering a play-in tournament (between the seventh-eighth-ninth-tenth teams in each conference) to determine the final two seeds in each conference's bracket.

For those of you who aren't readers or listeners of Simmons, he proposed this idea over a decade ago as a way to help the league curb the idea of tanking, as his version had EVERY non-playoff team in a March Madness-style single-knockout tourney.  I believe some version of his idea also had the four winning teams also earning the top four picks in the NBA Draft, which would've definitely provided incentive for every team to try hard.

My biggest issue with the idea is simple --- the last thing we need is 'more' NBA playoff rounds.  This is already the most predictable tournament in sports.  There is no such thing as a true Cinderella run in the modern NBA.  You can get an upset in a single matchup, sure, but you never get a low seed actually making a run at a title.  The closest you get is something like the 2011 Mavericks or the 2003 Pistons, but those were high seeds that just surprisingly beat bigger favorites, rather than true "wait, how is this happening" teams on a miracle run.  I think the Houston Rockets' second NBA title team from the mid-90's was also kind of a low seed but they were hardly an "upset" given that they were the defending champs who seemingly just took it easy in the regular season.  You can make a better case that the NBA should eliminate a playoff round before they should expand their bracket.

Looking at today's standings, the proposed play-in tournament would give us matchups of Trail Blazers/Jazz and Pelicans/Clippers in the West, and 76ers/Hornets and Heat/Pistons.  Frankly....who cares?  Seeing the likes of Dame Lillard, Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, and Philly's young stars in, ahem, "big" games may appeal to basketball junkies like Simmons, but ultimately, why go to all this extra effort to determine the teams that will surely get waxed by the Warriors, Rockets, Raptors*, and Celtics in the first round?

* = assuming Kyle Lowry doesn't again forget how to play basketball come playoff time

In regards to the anti-tanking element, I'm also not sure tying high draft picks to this tournament would be the best way to solve the problem of teams throwing seasons.  Simmons and others had made the reasonable point that it doesn't help the league to have its future stars getting drafted by consistently incompetent franchises, though you never know.  Today's incompetent franchise is tomorrow's NBA champion, given that it can sometimes take just one major star to turn a team around.  Also, if this idea was in place for this year, just imagine the hilarious outrage if the 76ers (the poster children for "the Process") ended up with another top pick just for being okay enough to squeak into the playoffs.

Also, I'm against the idea in no small part because it would raise Simmons' already-high smugness quotient to completely unbearable levels.  I'd only get on board with the plan if we could arrange to have the lower seed upset the Celtics for the next decade.