Friday, February 25, 2011

The Markademy Awards

Another year, another edition of the Markademy Awards, arguably the most prestigious film award that a movie can win....on Blogger. This ceremony doesn't have Anne Hathaway or James Franco, but it does have me, who dressed as the Hobgoblin for Halloween in the sixth grade (basically the same as the Green Goblin, right?) and is often referred to as 'a male Anne Hathaway' by friends. I really need them to explain the origin of the nickname to me at some point. It might be due to my habit of always getting naked in my films. Okay, maybe not 'my films,' but rather the cameraphone videos that people take of me when I'm streaking through downtown London.

Onto the awards!


Actual nominees: Javier Bardem (Biutiful), Jeff Bridges (True Grit), Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network), Colin Firth (The King's Speech), James Franco (127 Hours)

Overlooked: Leonardo DiCaprio (Inception/Shutter Island hybrid), Ryan Gosling (Blue Valentine)

I'll start things off with the easiest to call of the acting categories. Colin Firth has basically had this Oscar on lockdown ever since the movie was announced. He's well-liked in Hollywood, well-respected by all, beloved by every woman in the world over the age of 35, and, oh yeah, he gave the best performance of the bunch. (Note: haven't seen Biutiful yet.) Firth probably clinched his Oscar in the climactic final scene of King's Speech when he beats Hitler in a fistfight, and then stands over Hitler's unconscious body and says "Did I stutter?" Anyway, I've got no beef with any of the nominees, so overall, yeah, pretty boring category.

Should win: Firth
Will win: Firth

Actual nominees: Christian Bale (The Fighter), John Hawkes (Winter's Bone), Jeremy Renner (The Town), Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right), Geoffrey Rush (The King's Speech)

Overlooked: Andrew Garfield (The Social Network), Arnie Hammer (The Social Network), Bill Murray (Get Low)

All of these guys did a good job, though I could've easily taken Murray or Hammer over Renner's overwrought Bawsten guy in the overwrought Bawsten melodrama known as The Town. (I was not a fan.) This one is totally a race between Rush and Bale, and there's a lot of good arguments for both sides. Bale has won the lion's share of critics' awards and gives pound-for-pound the better performance, but Rush is his usual terrific self and might get swept up in the King's Speech wave. It's safe to guess that Rush is a bit more popular in Hollywood than Christian "Friend to Cinematographers Everywhere" Bale, but then again, Rush has an Oscar already, so Academy voters might want to spread the wealth. It's a real tossup between the two, and if Rush wins, it might be a bellweather that TKS will clean up at the ceremony.

My pick, if I had a vote, would be neither man. It'd be good old John Hawkes, who almost stole the show in Winter's Bone. TV fans know Hawkes for playing nice-guy Sol Starr on Deadwood, or Kenny Powers' meek brother on Eastbound & Down, or Lennon, the most pointless character in the history of LOST. In this film, however, kindly Hawkes basically channels Harvey Keitel and plays an absolutely vicious backwoods near-psychopath. It's quite a stunning performance, especially from a guy who's been typecast as decent fellows for most of the last decade. Just getting a nomination was a victory in itself for Hawkes, so well done.

Should win: Hawkes
Will win: Bale

Actual nominees: Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), The Coen Brothers (True Grit), David Fincher (The Social Network), Tom Hooper (The King's Speech), David O. Russell (The Fighter)

Overlooked: Banksy/Exit Through The Gift Shop, Mike Leigh/Another Day, CHRISTOPHER FUCKING NOLAN (Inception), Lee Unkrich/Toy Story 3, Edgar Wright/Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Tom Hooper won the Directors' Guild award, which almost always goes to the eventual Best Director Oscar winner. Yet...I can't shake the nagging feeling that Fincher will still capture the directing prize. If I'm looking for a comparison, I might seek out 1998 and 2002, when little-known directors (John Madden and Rob Marshall, respectively) directed BP winners but since they didn't have the pedigrees of the other nominees, they lost Best Director to bigger names (Steven Spielberg, Roman Polanski). Remember, Social Network isn't a hated film by any stretch, it's just that King's Speech seems to be more in the Academy's wheelhouse. Fincher (and Aaron Sorkin, in the screenplay category) could both easily be rewarded for putting together such a fascinating film, even if King's Speech goes on to win Best Picture. And hey, who knows, maybe if Hooper goes on to have a legendary career, we'll look back at this in 30 years and all think "Oh man, how they have snubbed Tom Hooper here! David Fincher? Really? The Alien 3 guy?"

Oh, and also, let's take a moment to wonder if Chris Nolan actually has to kill someone to get an Oscar nomination. I mean, not that I would've voted him to win over Fincher, but for the love of god, is even a token nomination at this point too much to ask from the Academy?

Should win: Fincher
Will win: Hooper, probably

Actual nominees: Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right), Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole), Jennifer Lawrence (Winter's Bone), Natalie Portman (Black Swan), Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine)

Overlooked: Leslie Manville (Another Year), Julianne Moore (The Kids Are All Right), Noomi Rapace (The Millennium Trilogy), Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit)

Is anyone else stunned that Michelle freakin' Williams from Dawson's Creek is a two-time Oscar nominee? Meanwhile, James Vanderbeek has been reduced to turning himself into an internet meme, Joshua Jackson is on a low-rated sci-fi show and Katie Holmes is married to a tiny madman. Since this was the only place where Blue Valentine picked up a nom, I'll mention here that my buddy Trev recently made the unfortunate mistake of taking a date to the film. Eeep. Guys, if you're thinking "Hey, my ladyfriend likes Ryan Gosling, this movie is supposed to be critically-acclaimed...I can take her to one of 'her picks' and be entertained myself!", please disavow yourself of this notion. This is not a date movie. This is less of a date movie than Date Movie, and any man who non-ironically took his date to that film should dumped post-haste.

But, anyway, Best Actress. Williams and Kidman are happy to be there, and Lawrence is the 'breakout star' nominee of the year who has parlayed her newfound acclaim into...uh, this shitty new X-Men movie. It's a two-horse race between Bening and Portman, and it seems like Portman has all of the momentum behind her at the moment. I can't argue with this since Portman carries Black Swan on her back and single-handedly keeps the film from degenerating into ridiculousness.

A note on my snubbed list. What hurts Bening in the final vote, I think, is that her performance is such a dual act with Moore that it's hard to separate the two. I'm not sure why Bening is the one singled out for a nomination both at the Oscars and overall in critics' awards, frankly, since Moore was just as good. Leslie Manville should absolutely, absolutely be nominated for her fantastic performance in Another Year, and part of me thought Rapace might get a surprise nod for her overall work as Lisbeth Salander. Possibly the funniest moment in any film this year was Lisbeth getting ready for her trial by dressing in the most outrageous goth/punk outfit possible as a big F-you to the court proceedings.

Should win: Portman
Will win: Portman

Actual nominees: Amy Adams (The Fighter), Helena Bonham Carter (The King's Speech), Melissa Leo (The Fighter), Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit), Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom)

Overlooked: Marion Cotillard (Inception), Greta Gerwig (Greenberg), Keira Knightley (Never Let Me Go), Olivia Williams (The Ghost Writer)

I am not crazy about this list of nominees. It's a lot of "well, they were good, sure, but Oscar good?" It seems like a category filled out of performances that should be the fourth or fifth choices on a ballot. The exception is Steinfeld, who you'll notice I included on my overlooked list for Best Actress. This is because she is so blatantly the lead character of True Grit that her nomination here smacks of the studio just trying to get her into an easier category. This actually might cost her the Oscar, since voters may instead turn to Leo, a well-liked veteran who actually gives a supporting performance. Or, Leo might have her votes split by her co-star Adams, or Bonham Carter might win as part of a King's Speech split or a desire on the part of Academy voters to see what garish outfit she'll wear to the ceremony. I'm tentatively predicting a Leo win, but really, any result besides a Jacki Weaver victory wouldn't be surprising. I'll also take a short trip back on the 'Inception got jobbed' train and note that Cotillard should be nominated here.

Should win: Steinfeld
Will win: Leo

Nominees: Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3), Simon Beaufoy and Danny Boyle (127 Hours), The Coen Brothers (True Grit), Debra Granik and Anne Rosselini (Winter's Bone), Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network)

No-brainer. This is one category a King's Speech sweep can't touch.

Should win: Sorkin
Will win: Sorkin

Nominees: Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg (The Kids Are All Right), Eric Johnson, Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy (The Fighter), Mike Leigh (Another Year), Christopher Nolan (Inception), David Seidler (The King's Speech)

This one is almost surely going to David Seidler, and really, once you hear the man's incredible story, it's hard to debate. Now, the Oscar historian in me would almost want to toss an Oscar in the direction of Nolan or Leigh just to give one of these two awesome filmmakers SOMETHING, but hopefully, their day in the Academy Award sun is still to come.

Should win: Seidler
Will win: Seidler

Nominees: Danny Cohen (The King's Speech), Jeff Cronenweth (The Social Network), Roger Deakins (True Grit), Matthew Libatique (Black Swan), Wally Pfister (Inception)

Legendary cameraman Roger Deakins is 0-for-9 lifetime at the Oscars, while modern-day star Wally Pfister is 0-for-4. Hopefully one of these streaks will be snapped on Oscar night, though since they're up against three first-time nominees, Deakins and Pfister will probably get piqued by the Academy gods once again. Gun to my head, however, I might go for Black Swan as the best-photographed of these nominees. (Had Cronenweth pulled off this planned elaborate tracking shot for the credit sequence of Social Network, I might've been convinced to vote for him too.) It seems like there's a bit of a groundswell building up for Deakins to finally get his Oscar, and since the Academy liked True Grit enough to give it 10 nominations, this seems like a good place for a win. Again, though, if Cohen wins, it's going to be an even bigger King's Speech sweep than expected.

Should win: Libatique or Deakins
Will win: Deakins

Actual nominees: Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The King's Speech, 127 Hours, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter's Bone

Overlooked: Another Year, Exit Through The Gift Shop

The story of this awards season was Social Network sweeping everything in sight until about a month ago, when King's Speech suddenly picked up the Director's Guild, Producer's Guild and SAG Awards, thus vaulting it into the frontrunner's position. The anti-King's Speech backlash has already begun online, which is unfortunate since TKS isn't at all a bad movie. It's a very good, solid, thoroughly quality picture that wouldn't at all stand out as an eyesore in Best Picture history. The problem, in a great line I'm stealing from someone else's review, is that King's Speech also could've been the Best Picture of 1970 or 1980 or 1990. It's your classic Oscar battle: a traditional, feel-good, period piece against a more cutting-edge film of its moment.

Now, you could argue that if you're going for timelessness, this gives King's Speech the edge. After all, in 15 years, Facebook might be obsolete, replaced by the latest internet trend. Facebook itself, however, is almost irrelevant in Social Network...heck, I'd argue that another 2010 film, Catfish, deals more with the privacy/creepiness/having your whole life online aspect of Facebook much more than Social Network does. Facebook in TSN is almost a Macguffin, since it could really be any invention, idea or concept that Zuckerberg, Saverin and the Winklevii are feuding about. The film is about this feud and this dynamic between the characters, which is probably why Sorkin felt so free to rewrite large chunks of Mark Zuckerberg's life. In Sorkin's mind, he was writing a classic story about power corrupting, not about the actual history of Facebook.

TSN is my personal choice of these nominees, and *almost* my best film of 2010, but we'll get to that in a minute. It's really down to just Social Network and King's Speech. The only film that has even a 0.5% chance of an upset is actually Toy Story, if the voters decide to get all Lord Of The Rings on us and reward an entire trilogy --- and in this case, Pixar as a whole --- with its final act. I suspect King's Speech will get the nod on Oscar night, and really, we should be fine with that. TKS over TSN wouldn't even be in the top 40 most baffling Best Picture decisions in Academy history, so maybe we're all taking this too seriously. (This is a great thing for me to realize after writing a few thousand goddamn words about the Oscars.)

Should win: The Social Network
Will win: The King's Speech

And now, finally, the uber-ballot. The top five on my list all had a legit shot at the #1 position, and for the first time since 2006, I had a tough time deciding my favourite film of the year. Was it Social Network, and its endlessly interesting script? Was it the sheer fun of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World? Was it the mind-bending adventure of Inception, even though I'm kinda afraid to watch the movie again since I fear I'll suddenly see a dozen plot holes? Was it the heart-warming, generation-defining enjoyment of Toy Story 3?

Or, was it the street art documentary? You guessed it.

1. Exit Through The Gift Shop
2. The Social Network
3. Toy Story 3
4. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
5. Inception
6. Winter's Bone
7. The Other Guys
8, Another Year
9. The King's Speech
10, True Grit

So, Exit Through The Gift Shop. The premise is simple: the film is a look at the anti-social network of underground street artists that stretches around the world. The documentary was first conceived by a guy named Thierry Guetta, who shot thousands of hours about various legendary street artists, particularly the grand-daddy of them all, the mysterious Banksy. Guetta, however, while enthusiastic, didn't know film-making from a hole in the ground, so his finished product was a mess. Banksy then decided to re-edit the footage himself, including a sequence of Guetta's own attempts to enter the street art world as "Mr. Brainwash," though Guetta ends up becoming a derivative version of all his favourite artists and something of a sellout to the movement.

The documentary, taken at face value, is a fascinating look at post-graffiti art culture. What adds another layer of intrigue to the whole project is that the entire premise I described in the previous paragraph could be all bullshit. There's a theory that Guetta's art, and by extension the film, is in itself a concocted project of Banksy's that satirizes the idea of art as a commodity and the concept of documentaries as in any way factual.

To wit, Banksy himself keeps his identity hidden throughout the picture since part of his mystique lies in the fact that nobody knows his actual name. This has created an amusing subplot to Oscar night, since ETTGS is nominated for Best Documentary and the Academy has stated that if the film wins, Banksy cannot come onstage in a mask. As the Academy puts it, "what if five guys come up in masks and we have to ask which one is the real Banksy?" From what little I know about the actual Banksy, the guy would find this amusing as hell, so who knows what he will do or wear at the ceremony, if he's there at all.

Top to bottom, Exit Through The Gift Shop is the most overall satisfying film of 2010 and this year's recipient of the Markademy Award for Best Picture. It joins a tremendous list of winners that includes Inglourious Basterds, The Dark Knight, Once, The Prestige, Batman Begins, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Love Actually, Talk To Her, Amelie and High Fidelity. Though, it should be noted, in the 1998-2003 installment of the 'best films of our lives' project between myself and my pal Kyle, I backslid and picked Memento and Unbreakable over Amelie and High Fidelity, respectively. Surely, any award becomes even more prestigious when an M. Night Shyamalan film is attached to it, right? Right?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Random Nonsense

From the department of "so close, yet so far," comes my lottery-winning streak. Whenever the ol' Lotto Max jackpot passes the $40 million mark, I throw in five bucks and buy a ticket. (You know, since a $30 million prize just isn't worth my time.) So last month, I got a ticket and won a free play from it. Not too shabby. From that free play, I won $20. Naturally, I re-invested $5 of that into another ticket, and boom goes the dynamite, I won yet another free play.

This went on for three more weeks, picking up free play after free play. The streak finally ended last weekend, not coincidentally after I mentioned this odd run of luck to a friend. It was sort of like how Wile E. Coyote was able to run on air, and only fell down the cliff after he realized he was running on air.

Some might say that I barely won anything, with the $15 profit probably not even worth the time expended to buy those cards and 'randomly' pick out my numbers*, but feh to that. Beating the system for six straight weeks is a victory in and of itself, and much greater than any multi-million dollar prize. I don’t need any more money. I’m not greedy. As long as I’ve got my health, my millions of dollars, my gold house, and my rocket car, I don’t need anything else.

* I'd give you my formula, but then you'd use them and invariably win $30 million on some week when I didn't buy a ticket....and then there would be blood.


Here's a treat for Conan fans --- a 90-minute podcast featuring Conan and his show's warm-up act, some guy named Jimmy Pardo. It's definitely worth a listen if you have the time; Conan is noticeably looser and more 'who gives a fuck?' than he is on his show or in other appearances. He even drops an s-bomb at one point, which just sounds weird coming from him. It'd be like hearing the Queen call David Cameron a son of a bitch. (I'll bet she has, at least once.)


My Survivor-loving pal Mario has followed up his award-winning, legendary, record-breaking Survivor Funny 115 (The 115 funniest moments in Survivor history) with....115 more of the funniest moments in Survivor history. The first entry deals with the first 11 Survivor seasons, and the new list (currently in progress) covers everything since. Needless to say, there is a lot of Coach. I personally contacted Mario to make sure he'd included a) many of Coach's greatest moments and b) what has come to be known as "Matty's shit-eating grin" during the Gabon season. Fans of the show know what I'm talking about. If I had to make a prediction about what might be #1, I'd have to go with either Eliza "it's a f***ing stick" rant to Jason in the Fans vs. Favorites season, or Crystal's screamed vote for Randy in the Gabon season, or any of about 20 ridiculous things that Coach said or did.


This 'Red Riding Hood' movie is a spoof, right?.....Right?


UFC 127 Picks!

N.B., the hint to my UFC pick posts is that when the event looks like a dog, I include my predictions as part of a larger post, rather than a stand-alone. Then again, often the UFC cards that look underwhelming on paper end up being awesome. So what do I know?

* Jorge Rivera over Michael Bisping, decision
Rivera is almost the perfect gatekeeper. If you look at his record, you'll see that all his wins have come over average or below-average fighters, and all his losses have come to above-average or great fighters. Rivera is the perfect demarcation line. Now, since Bisping is (barely) an above-average fighter, I was going to pick him in this match...before I noticed that Jorge has never lost via decision. If you're going to beat Jorge Rivera, you'll have to stop him, and I don't think Bisping's pitter-pat style is capable of actually stopping a fighter that's also above average. The UFC sees its dream of a Bisping-headlined UK PPV card once again get delayed as Rivera notches a big win.

* Chris Lytle over Brian Ebersole, submission, R2
Ebersole is the journeyman replacement for Carlos Condit, who got hurt and thus turned this bout into an important welterweight showdown into kind of a 'meh' fight. Lytle is on a roll and is hunting for one late-career title shot, so watch this, Ebersole will probably shock the world and.....well, no, he won't.

* Kyle Noke over Chris Camozzi, decision
If you didn't know UFC 127 was being held in Australia, this fight's inclusion on the main card is the giveaway. I'll give the nod to Noke just because he's in his home country, since both fighters are roughly on the same level.

* George Sotiropoulos over Dennis Siver, submission, R2
This fight is taking place since George (who's on an eight-fight win streak, seven of those in the UFC) wanted to fight in his home country of Australia. As it turned out, the match will give him something to do since the lightweight championship picture is tied up for a while. If and when Sotiropoulos wins this, he'll probably get a bout against Jim Miller (presuming Miller wins next month, of course) in the summer for the #1 contender's spot. This shouldn't be too big a challenge for Sotiropoulos; Siver has won six of his last seven but is clearly a second or third-tier kind of guy that George can tap out.

* Jon Fitch over BJ Penn, decision
Surprise, surprise. Penn is literally the only welterweight besides GSP that could headline an event against Fitch, both because a) Fitch has beaten pretty much everyone else and b) Fitch is less exciting than watching paint dry. As dull as Fitch's grinding style is, he's undisputedly one of the very best fighters in the world. The man has lost just once in EIGHT YEARS, and that was to St. Pierre. If Penn can actually win this fight, I'd argue that not only should Penn get an immediate title shot, but that it might be the most impressive win in BJ's long career. (The only other candidate is his first win over Matt Hughes.) As always with Penn, it will depend on how hard he's been training for this bout, and frankly, given that Fitch isn't a blood rival, I doubt BJ really has the motivation. A 100 percent BJ Penn would be in a tough shape against Fitch but he could win it; a lackluster BJ Penn will get wrestled down and outworked like almost every other Fitch opponent this decade.

* Chris Tuchscherer over Mark Hunt, TKO, R1
* Anthony Perosh over Tom Blackledge, KO, R2
* Maciej Jewtuszko over Curt Warburton, submission, R3
* Riki Fukuda over Nick Ring, decision
* Ross Pearson over Spencer Fisher, decision
* Alexander Gustafsson over James Te-Huna, KO, R1
* Zhang Tie Quan over Jason Reinhardt, submission, R3

Thursday, February 17, 2011

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

Just a mammoth edition of the OOCT, mammoth. Guys have a habit of texting each other during major sporting events, and given that my team went on a Super Bowl run (*gleeful self high-five*), there was no shortage of football to text about.

As always, the identities of the texters will not be revealed. Not revealed by me, at least. If the universe re-arranges star clusters to spell out the names of the anonymous texters, that's not my problem. How could I possibly be expected to control that?

"Since all my teams stink, I've decided to live my life vicariously through you. No pressure."

"Most cowardly!"

"Mike Tomlin looks like a black Dave Lee. Agree or disagree?"

"Sloppy play! I agree with your tweet completely. Has Lovie gone insane? What happened with Cutler?"

"Okee! I'm still at work!"

"How about a movie tom?"

"Perfect! I'm free any day but Wed! lol you must be sooo happy right now with the Packers beating the Bears!"

"Well done! Sarah and I will see you between 6:30 and 7 pm"


"Bonehead play!"

"Maybe they were tipping guys who would be able to make the game. ZING!"

"Atta boy, I'm happy for you."

"Oooof.....weak in memoriam class. (Yay?)"

"Thank Christ, you can exhale."

"Hey buddy, I don't think I'm going to make it to UFC tonight. Just going to lay low at home. Enjoy!"

"Man City, top of the table, baby!"

"Could they have missed more opportunities in this game?"

"As pleased as I was that Murray won the pro am, was it not intensely bizarre that he putted LAST on 18? D.A. had won the fucking ACTUAL tournament!"

"Yo! What's your plan for ton?"

"Shazam! Ryan and I will be there in 20 minutes or so."

"Congrats buddy. Happy for you."

"Knew they had it the whole way! (Liar voice)"

"I wanted to let you know I just messaged [name redacted] on FB and asked him on a date!"

"Good luck"

"Well now, this is going to be very interesting, as we'll be tied for the trophy going into the SB."

"Yay me!"

"We had bailouts, not enough to order fight."

"What's that like?"

"So you better be there! Ha ha I'm not getting stood up! lol"

"That pick also locked up my NFL confidence pool title! Only two of eight picked GB (me: for 16 points)"

"Sorry for the wait."

"Just finishing class, I'll be there in 15"

"Who b-day is it tom?"

"lol, oh sorry! I have a bday party! I'll hang another time for sure! :) "

"Ok, I PVRing the second half, so no spoilers please. Good luck!"

"How're you feeling about this game? Are you going to take credit -- a la Simmons -- for being right regardless of who wins?"

"Good grief."

"Oh, I agree completely. Just seems like this is always Baltimore's lament (see also: their near-upset of the then-undefeated '07 Pats)."

"At least he missed the tackle."

"Why so conservative here?"

"Come. Fucking. On."

"Still not sure what my favourite pic of the year is. As much as I loved TSN and Inception, I felt like I wanted a little bit more from both of them."

"Hey, you up for anything tonight?"

"Hi Mark! It's [name redacted]. I'm sorry but someone has put money down on the place so it's no longer available. Take care and sorry for the short notice."

"What's the work on tonight, bud?"

"I made out with [name redacted]!"

"Zaniest rule in football."

"If TSN had a better (or less abrupt) ending or if Inception had fewer slo-mo shots of the truck falling (which I find too amusing to take seriously) they'd be it."

"So how was your lunch date?"

"Hope appt hunting is going well. I got to the lecture on time and even checked in innocently with my supervisor. B-) Hit the grocery store and am home."

"Promising start!"

"What was Brees' QB rating?"

"Helluva play"

"Watched 127 Hours last night --- really enjoyed it. Going to watch Animal Kingdom and the Fighter today."


"I went back and forth on the early game about 40 times then switched 30 minutes before kickoff, then was furious, then was elated."

"Let's go early, meet you there 15 early"

"That's fucking bush league. He should be tossed."

"This colour commentator is absolutely horrific."

"Hilarious playcalling here...and the clock stopped. Not that Buck bothered to mention that."

"Heyyy come to Thornys!"

"Too late to cover, unfortunately."

"TS3 good call. Though I actually thought it dragged a little (see minute ten of Woody trying to convince the gang to leave the daycare)."


"It was delicious as usual. Where did you guys go?"

"Fuck. Yeah."

"GB's punter is easily their MVP."

"lol, classic TSN. Will the title game even be in the first three segments??"

"Is it really true that Amazing Race has never been in HD?"

"I kind of liked the last 20 but, like, was that supposed to be a twist? Also, I think Vincent Cassel is fucking awesome."

"Will do"

"Ohhh, right. Is he (like I'm sure Harbaugh is) blaming the refs?"

"Oh sorry, that was meant for Taylor (thought it was)..."

"Wow, big swing."

"It was great having you by again, roomie! Have a safe drive back, but remember you are welcome to check in here if you are beat!"

"Vick, Ryan (?) who else? Brees had 20+ picks"

"Weird. Terrible coverage by FOX."

"So what's your confidence right now? 3 out of 10? Minus 2?"

"You know what? Stop fucking blitzing!"

"Rodgers DIDN'T MAKE THE PRO BOWL? The fuck?? Even with the missed time, that's crazy."

"Working tonight?"

"Hey! How was the fight? Let's hit up a movie this week!"

"My mom is coming in the AM"

"Hey, you still in for tonight?"

"Watched King's Speech last night (great) and Rabbit Hole (meh)"

"I'm going to Rouge, you?"

"Ahahahaha....Leafs highlights....for a game that isn't even over!"

"Lions representing!"

"I was just thinking: obviously the Lions would have made the playoffs if they weren't PLAYING IN THE BEST DIVISION IN FOOTBALL"

"How was your night, cuz?"

"Have you seen Black Swan yet? We caught it a couple of nights ago. I liked it....but it doesn't seem quite deserving of all the hype."

"Cutler?? Hardly"


"Total Bmore bed shit."

"Ooh, how is it?? That sounds perfect. how mad are you on a scale from 1 to 10? Ha ha! We are going to the New Yorker"

"Hey man, odd question, do you still have the snow pants from the infamous skiing trip?"


Monday, February 14, 2011

Hot! Live! Music! (Valentine's edition)

"If music be the food of love, play on" -- William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

"Maybe it's the beer talking, Marge, but you've got a butt that won't quit. They've got these big chewy pretzels here that are...(incoherent mumbling)...five dollars? Get out of here!" -- Homer Simpson, smiling politely

Adele, "Lovesong"

The Cure are one of the best 'greatest hits bands' out there. This is defined as a band whose albums are rather hit-and-miss (major exception in the Cure's case: Disintegration) but if you distill their best tracks down to one greatest hits disc, it sounds awesome from start to finish. I'm spending this time talking about the Cure since I know zip-all about Adele, aside from the fact that she has a nice voice and may be the only person named 'Adele' who isn't at least 70 years old. That name is right up there with Mabel and Muriel.

James, "Laid"

HEY, REMEMBER THE 90'S?! There is an eighty percent chance that hearing this song instantly made you think of the American Pie movies. My friends and I recently argued over which of the AP cast had the most successful careers since 1999. Alyson Hannigan and Seann William Scott were the undisputed top two, and Natasha Lyonne is dead last, but you could make some serious arguments over every other placement. For my money, it's....

1. Hannigan
2. Scott
3. Jason Biggs
4. Chris Klein
5. Eddie Kaye Thomas
6. Tara Reid
7. Shannon Elizabeth
8. Thomas Ian Nicholas
9. Mena Suvari
10. Lyonne

Our discussion centered around just the core kids, so obviously Eugene Levy or Jennifer Coolidge weren't included since they already had careers before American Pie was released. Also not included: John Cho (who has a good case for second) and, since IMBD tells me they were actually in the film, Casey Affleck and Christina Milian. I'm not going to embarrass myself and my friends further by saying how long we argued about this list, but let's just say it was probably too long.

No Doubt, "Eleanor Rigby"

You know who would've really appreciated a Valentine on this day? Eleanor Rigby. She and Father McKenzie should totally have hooked up. Well, that is, unless Father McKenzie was into the boys. "Hey Mark, how is this a good cover? Doesn't No Doubt's upbeat ska totally obscure the sombre message of the song?" Uh, moving on....

Talking Heads, "Girlfriend Is Better"

If I keep doing enough of these live music posts, will I eventually just end up posting all 16 tracks off of Stop Making Sense? All signs point to yes. This is the debut of David Byrne's signature 'big suit,' which reigned as the Halloween costume of choice for hipsters for most of the 1980's. If they had made a Fantastic Four movie in the 1980's, Byrne would've been the hands-down choice for Reed Richards, no doubt about it. Could it be argued that including a song called 'Girlfriend Is Better' on Valentine's Day is a slap in the face to single people? Well...

The Raconteurs, "Crazy"

...not if that girlfriend is crazy! Ahhhh, see what I did there?! And what colours better signify Valentine's Day than red and white*, which happen to be the colours of the White Stripes, who were fronted by Jack White, who's also a member of the Raconteurs?! (dusts off hands triumphantly) So with the Stripes breaking up, does this mean I'll have to start really getting into the Raconteurs to get my Jack White fix? I already have the Dead Weather's ain't great. Hopefully it doesn't turn out that Meg was the entire key to the White Stripes, and Jack was merely a frontman. I love that band far too much to see it turn into a musical version of Without A Clue.

* = er, pretend the colour pink doesn't exist.

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, "Walls"

Yeah! Heartbreakers on Valentine's Day! Nice comic moment with the laughably small smatter of applause when Petty starts up the song. Perhaps 'Walls' had just been released at the time of this concert or something, since it seems like it's one of Petty's better-known tunes, in my opinion.

UC Men's Octet, "The FInal Countdown"

And finally, what better way to end things than with the Final Countdown? It fits the theme since you know that somewhere, some guy has rented a smoke machine and will enter the bedroom tonight with great fanfare (possibly wearing a cape) and this song blasting. His girlfriend/wife/girl he's just started dating/boyfriend/Amy Poehler/etc. will laugh and hopefully be into it. If not, well, then this guy will spend his Valentine's Night performing a solo, if you will.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Build A Robocop Statue!

So, I spent my Christmas Eve watching Robocop with my friends. "Respec," as Ali G might say. With that in mind, ol' Robo has been on my mind of late, which makes this campaign all the more poignant. It's a campaign created by Detroit citizens with the intent of building a Robocop statue in the Motor City.

To enhance the cause, the link includes a ten-minute rap recap of Robocop's plot. Yes, ten minutes.

Forget about Eminem driving around Detroit in a douchy Chevy ad, THIS is what the city needs to reinvigorate itself. What says Detroit more than a statue of a robotic policeman from an 80's action movie? Surely, there's no better way that money can be donated in one of the more poverty-stricken cities in America. Your move, creeps!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Demotivational Posters, Vol. 2, Part V

No, I haven't been on a week-long bender in celebration of Green Bay's Super Bowl win. Instead, I've been scouring the internet in search of only the finest in wacky demotivational posters. And, by scouring, I really mean just copying them from my friend Mario's page. If you thought I was making these posters up myself, I'll pause for a moment while your respect for me drops by 8.5 percent.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

The Cheese Stands Alone (NFL picks, Super Bowl)

* Packers over Steelers
Well, duh. It's not like I'm going to suddenly turn heel, tearing off my Packers sweater to reveal a Hines Ward jersey while Jim Ross sceams "No! No! Mah gawd, what has Mark done?!"

So here we are. Nineteen games, dozens of bitten nails, one increasingly hilarious post and umpteen celebratory booyahs later, the Packers are playing for the NFL title. It's wild. I picked them to reach the big game at the start of the year (against Baltimore, the other AFC North titan) but in my heart of hearts, I secretly had a backup pick made in my head since I thought something would derail Green Bay along the way. My backup pick? Houston vs. Atlanta. I am so smart. SMRT.

The derailer, however, never came. The Packers lost key players for the season, lost other key players for crucial games, blew close heart-breakers and had to win their final game just to make it into the playoffs. But they just kept overcoming every obstacle in their path and now, it's Super Bowl time. Good lord. I almost don't know how to react. The last of my favourite teams to reach a championship game was....the Packers, back in Super Bowl XXXII, when John Elway helicopter-spun his way to a Denver upset victory. It's been a long dry spell since, though since Green Bay did win the Super Bowl the previous year (and I'm still hanging my hat on those two Jays World Series wins in 92-93), I can hardly complain about my lot in life as a sports fan. It's not like I live in Cleveland or something.

It's been such a crazy season that I'm beyond just "happy to be here." F that. If the Packers are going to go through all this shit all season long, they may as well pay it all off by winning the championship.

It's going to be a really, really, really tough game. Pittsburgh is easily the toughest opponent the Packers have played all year. The Steelers are tough, smart, superbly-coached and can grind out a game with anyone. They're just winners --- hell, they won the Super Bowl just two years ago. No franchise has won as many Super Bowls as Pittsburgh's six. It would be very easy for me to imagine Mike Tomlin and company coming up with a scheme that totally baffles Mike McCarthy, leading to the infamous "McCarthy stares angrily at his game plan as if imagining it will somehow adapt itself to the opponent's game plan" camera shot. You can break down the positions all you want, but Pittsburgh's edge at head coach may be all that matters.

BUT, come on folks, I'm picking Green Bay to win. It just seems a bit too perfect of a setup. All season long, Aaron Rodgers has not just been establishing himself as arguably the NFL's best quarterback, but also as its biggest dragon-slayer. The Packers have, quietly, overcome almost every major story of this NFL season.

-- Brett Favre's texting misadventures and his lousy play for the Vikings. Green Bay beat Minnesota twice, and Rodgers had a monster year, thus cementing the the Packers' decision to ditch Favre was the right one.

-- The Patriots kicking ass. Green Bay nearly beat New England in Foxboro, with backup Matt Flynn leading the charge. It was the first sign that the Pats might not be unbeatable, and sure enough, they lost to New York in the playoffs.

-- The Jets mouthing off and backing it up. Green Bay shut the Jets out 9-0 on Halloween, thus cementing the fact that at the end of the day, New York just didn't have the offense to go all the way.

-- The Cowboys' shit-tastic collapse. Green Bay laid a 45-7 demolition on them in Week 9, the most lopsided and humiliating of Dallas' many defeats this year.

-- Michael Vick's "redemption" as Philadelphia's quarterback. Green Bay beat Philly in both the season opener and in the wild card round. I guess you could say that the Packers really 'dogged' the Eagles this year. Ha ha ha! Obvious jokes are the best jokes!

-- The Falcons' huge year, and their presence in that goddamn NFL Play 60 commercial that airs fifty times during every game. Green Bay beat Atlanta in the second round of the playoffs. Okay, the Falcons aren't really a 'dragon' like the others, aside from the fact that Arthur Blank looks kind of like a creep.

-- The Bears managing to somehow cobble together a playoff-bye team under the leadership of Lovie Smith and his variety of failed NFL head coach coordinators, and the emergence of Jay "Captain Sulk" Cutler. Green Bay dropped them in the NFC title game, albeit in a game that took five years from my life due to its unnecessary closeness.

What two other storylines have dominated football talk over the last six months? Naturally, it's the conduct and suspension of Ben "No Means No" Roethlisberger, plus the increased focus on player safety, particularly when it comes to concussions and defenders like James Harrison delivering brain-rattling hits. These two major issues have joined together to form one End Boss, one Big Bad, one King Koopa, one Mike Tyson waiting at the end of the season for Green Bay (Little Mac = Little Pack?) as the biggest challenge of them all. For the Packers to fall short in the Super Bowl wouldn't just be a defeat in a football game, it would be a defeat of narrative structure. I sure didn't watch this whole goddamn season just to realize it's a Jean-Luc Godard film, so Green Bay needs to take this home.

It's time. It has to happen. Aaron Rodgers will get the belt. Charles Woodson gets his ring. The Packers win their 13th championship (fourth Super Bowl to go along with nine NFL championships) and keep the Steelers from laying claim to the Titletown moniker. Oh lord, this is going to be four hours of my heart in my throat, isn't it? Man, it's great to support a winning team. #GoPackGo

Thursday, February 03, 2011

UFC 126 Picks

* Antonio Banuelos over Miguel Torres, decision
I'm starting to think that these lower weight divisions are already going through a big changing of the guard. This doesn't bode well for Torres, who was getting some 'best in the world' buzz in 2009 when he was dominating the FW division. Then he lost two in a row, got some dap back by beating Charlie Valencia and now he's finally in the UFC. I'm still not sure if Torres is really back on track or if he's past it already. If Mike Brown can go from champ to washout and Josh Grispi can lose his #1 contendership just like that, what the hell, I'll vote against Torres too. Prove me wrong, Miguel!

* Jon Jones over Ryan Bader, R2, knockout
Big-time fight here, and the winner may well be in line for the next LHW title shot. I'm kind of surprised it's taking place, to be honest --- Jones and Bader (and, a bit further down the ladder, Phil Davis) are the big up-and-comers at 205 and I sort of expected the UFC to keep them apart from each other. Jones/Bader may well be a title bout down the road, after all. But, I suppose pitting them against each other does sort out who the real alpha dog of the division is, and I think that'll end up being the wrecking machine known as Bones Jones. The guy is just a wrestling and striking machine, and if Bader is able to take him down, I can see Jones countering and laying in those nasty-ass elbows for which he's so famous. Bader is a good fighter himself, but his rise is going to take a big dip on Saturday.

* Rich Franklin over Forrest Griffin, decision
It's unusual to see these two UFC superstars actually in the cage against each other, but it's also equally unusual that they've never fought before, if that makes sense. It's theoretically a close matchup, but if you really look at it, Franklin does everything just a bit better than Griffin. Griffin's only edge is in size, since he's a "big" 205, whereas Franklin is still able to drop down to middleweight if he wanted. This fight has decision written all over it, and Rich should just be able to do more in 15 minutes and earn the victory. Coin toss of a fight, though, Forrest could easily win this. What I suspect the UFC will do with the 205-pound division is wait and see what happens with Randy Couture and Lyoto Machida in Toronto in April. If Couture wins that fight, then he gets the next title bout, since the storyline of the old legend having one last championship match is too profitable to pass up. Should that happen, the winner of Franklin/Griffin probably meets the winner of Jones/Bader in a #1 contender's bout.

* Carlos Eduardo Rocha over Jake Ellenberger, R3, submission
The Berg is a wrestler who has good striking, Rocha is an unbeaten submission specialist. Unless Ellenberger can catch him with a good shot, Rocha is going to eventually find a hole on the ground and nab get another sub, which would be the ninth in 10 career fights. Kind of a tough break for Ellenberger, since he was supposed to fight Jon Fitch on this card. Sure, he would've lost, but a loss to Fitch is fine since Fitch beats virtually everyone. A loss to Rocha is a much bigger setback.

* Anderson Silva over Vitor Belfort, R1, knockout
So, surely one can't pick Anderson to lose a striking contest, right? One can never sleep on Vitor's striking ability, but....really, come on. I can't pick a guy who has technically never won a UFC middleweight and has been sidelined for almost 18 months to step in and beat arguably the best fighter in the world, or even the GOAT. Silva gets another victim on his resume and we get a step closer to the Silva/GSP superfight.

* Ricardo Romero over Kyle Kingsbury, R1, submission
* Paul Taylor over Gabe Ruediger, R2, knockout
* Donald Cerrone over Paul Kelly, decision
* Chad Mendes over Michihiro Omigawa, decision
* Demetrious Johnson over Kid Yamamoto, R3, submission
* Mike Pierce over Kenny Robertson, decision

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

The White Stripes

Between Meg's anxiety problems, Jack's numerous other bands and production efforts, and the three-year-and-counting gap between albums for a famously prolific group, the writing was on the wall that the White Stripes could be nearing the end. Still, the band's official breakup announcement is disappointing. It seemed like Jack and Meg White were the type of group that could out of nowhere announce a new record's release and begin a tour within, like, a week, and to have that hope extinguished is a letdown to say the least.

The White Stripes have been my favourite 'new' band for about nine years, which seems like an oxymoron. Among the glut of early-00's garage bands, they stood out because they were, at the same time, both the most gimmicky and most substantive group of the bunch. Behind the calculated colour scheme and the brother/sister (really, ex-husband and wife) gimmick was a band that was actually low-tech in everything they did, from not making proper setlists for concerts to literally using low-tech instruments and recording technology to make their records. The result was album after endlessly creative album, breathing years of new life into the blues-rock genre. It was just, at the end of the day, a guitarist and a drummer, rocking out.

The legacy --- three great albums (Icky Thump, De Stijl, Elephant), one very good album (White Blood Cells), two good albums (Get Behind Me Satan, White Stripes), a fantastic live concert/documentary, a great concert in Mississauga in 2003 (I was there!), a refurbished public baseball diamond in Detroit and a very strong case to be made as the best rock group of the Aughts. Pretty good for two people.

White Stripes, you will be missed.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Amateur Dream Analysis

DREAM: I'm at a laundromat/pool hall. Yes, I'm serious. The front room was a working laundromat, filled with washing machines as far as the eye could see. You went down a hallway in the back, and walked right into a brightly-lit billiards hall, with roughly 20 tables ready to go. Anyway, I'm not only at this setting, I'm here with Craig Ferguson and roughly 20 other folks. We were all part of Craig's studio audience, and after the show, he takes us all out for a group laundry session. So there we all are, happily folding our whites while Craig cracks jokes. Once we're all done, we head back and shoot some pool.

ANALYSIS: Who needs sex dreams to have a good time while you're sleeping? Wouldn't it be a kick to spend an evening shooting pool -- and, to a lesser extent, doing laundry -- with Craig Ferguson? I presume my subconscious created this dream solely because I've been watching so much of Craig's show lately. Conan isn't on until midnight here but it repeats at 1:05 on CTV, so my routine has been to watch Conan up until 12:37, then flip over to Craig and usually watch it in its entirety unless the guests are completely uninteresting. Once it's over, I flip to CTV and catch the last half of Conan (provided, of course, that Conan's second guest was worth coming back to see). It's a pretty sweet two-hour comedy block.

If you've never seen Craig Ferguson's show before, it's well worth checking out. Of all the talk show hosts, Craig is the one that comes off as by far the least "performery," even though as an accomplished actor, he has far more of a performance background than Conan, Kimmel, Letterman or Leno. (And I guess Stewart too, though probably not Colbert.) Apparently most of Craig's very loosely-organized monologue is actually written, in terms of concrete jokes. He's basically just given some topics and then just rambles and rants every evening. This leads into some banter with his robot sidekick and then a viewer mail segment that's usually interrupted by at least one appearance from Secretariat. These appearances are so stupid, but yet they make me laugh every single time. It may be the funniest recurring talk show bit since the Walker Texas Ranger lever. Now, no question, I'm a Conan guy through and through, but Ferguson runs a strong second. He seems like the type of naturally entertaining and charismatic person who would be entertaining whether they're hosting a chat show or, you guessed it, doing some mundane task like the laundry.

But there's another reason for the venue. My friends and I were recently brainstorming ideas for businesses, and I believe that, much like how 'Let It Be' came to Paul McCartney in a dream, my subconsciousness has given me a multi-billion dollar concept. A combination pool hall/laundromat. Genius. What's the single biggest problem with doing your laundry in a public place? Having to wait around for it to wash and dry. Ergo, we provide a built-in way to kill time. You can challenge your fellow laundry-doers to games of billiards, with the winner getting quarters. If you get on a hot streak, your entire laundry could be paid for just like that.

Years from now, I look forward to Aaron Sorkin writing a more-or-less fictional account of how my business empire came to be. It will be called The Corner Pocket. My only fear is that I'll be played by 30 Rock's John Lutz.