Posts Tagged 'moneyball'

The 2012 Biggie Awards

The 23rd Annual Biggie Awards

aka The Biggies

for achievements in film for the year 2011

MMXI (that’s 2011 in Roman numerals, noobs), it was a strange year at the movies. Very strange indeed. For the first few months of the year, I thought it might end up being the worst overall year for the number of quality films in my adult life. Though there were a couple nice surprises early on (The Lincoln Lawyer, The Adjustment Bureau), it wasn’t until April that I finally saw a movie I truly loved (Hanna). After that, we went most of the rest of spring and almost the entire summer without a truly great movie, which instead was an unending string of disappointments and bland sequels. And I mean real bland, bland by even modern Hollywood standards (I mean, even Pixar made a subpar movie this year). That includes almost all of the major summer “tentpoles”. The big Marvel Avengers tie-in comic book flicks (Thor, Captain America) were both okay, but just okay. Then there was Green Lantern, which can only be described as godawful. I’m still having nightmares over the fact that a giant cloud of diarrhea was a villain in a movie that cost more than $250 million. Michael Bay continued crushing the memory of my childhood heroes with another shitty mess of a Transformers movie (Dark of the Moon, which was only 8.2% better than that atrocity Revenge of the Fallen), while Todd Phillips followed up one of the greatest comedies ever made (The Hangover) with an offensively lazy sequel that was almost literally a carbon copy of the first. I wanted more from J.J. Abrams‘ much-hyped Super 8 (hated the creature design, hated the ending), and although I enjoyed X-Men: First Class, it didn’t hold up as well upon a second viewing recently on Blu-ray.

Continue reading ‘The 2012 Biggie Awards’

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Retroactive 2011 MTV VMAs Live blog

Hello there! I didn’t expect to be doing this, but as happens with most of my entries on this site, the inspiration came from out of the blue. In this case, the blue channel guide on my cable box.

I was flipping through the guide the other night, and when I got to MTV, I saw that the Video Music Awards were about to start. I had no idea until that moment when they were, because I haven’t cared about the VMAs in 9 or 10 years, and haven’t watched an entire VMA show in probably that same time frame. As I sat there, staring at my channel guide, I started thinking about just how out of touch I’ve become with modern music. 10 years ago I watched MTV all the time, read Rolling Stone and followed music news online. Nowadays, the only music I’m really on top of is electronic music (via the many podcasts I listen to) and film scores. I haven’t been inspired by any pop music in years enough to get back into following it, and I don’t EVER listen to the radio, so even songs that are huge hits right now often go unnoticed in my little world.

I decided right then and there I wanted to see just how out of touch I am with pop music in 2011. I didn’t care enough to watch the show live, but I did DVR it, and I was going to force myself to watch the whole thing later. I was even able to avoid almost all spoilers for the show in my internet travels the past couple days (an extremely difficult task these days). I didn’t really want to watch it, but then I came up with the idea of watching it with my laptop open and turning the whole experience into a blog post, taking notes and commenting on things along the way. Because what good is watching something like that if you can’t share your opinions of it with the whole wide world? Today, I sat down and watched all 2 and a half hours of the show, INCLUDING most of the commercials (I’ll explain why as we go), and here is what I thought.

In case you’re a complete idiot, the numbers before each comment are time stamps, i.e. how far into the show each thing occurred. 08:00 means 8 minutes in, 1:24:00 means an hour and 24 minutes in, etc. Did I really just have to spell that out?

My love can do no wrong.

00:00-8:00: The show starts with Lady GaGa in drag as her “alter ego” Joe Calderone, who gives this stupid, strange performance art monologue that makes no sense whatsoever. Then she/he/it performs a song I can’t identify. But at least she sings live, and does it well. So kudos for that. Various cuts to other artists in the crowd and HOLY SHIT when did androgyny become so popular? Between GaGa and cutaways to Bruno Mars and Justin Bieber, I don’t know who is male, who is female, and who is neither or both. Why is it so hard for these people to appear distinctly masculine or feminine? Weezer guitarist Brian Bell makes a cameo appearance, and of course most of the 20-somethings in the fan section next to the stage have no clue who he is. Cut to Taylor Lautner, who also appears clueless. But at least I can tell he’s a guy! Despite being named “Taylor Lautner.”

9:00-13:00: They cut to a wide shot of the venue and stage, which looks like the head of one of the alien machines in the 1953 War of the Worlds. Some guy named Kevin Hart (who, of course, has a movie to plug) is apparently the host. Or not. He declares he’s not the host and is just there to deliver an opening monologue. If that was his sole task, he probably should’ve made a better effort at making it funny. He curses a bunch of times, all of which are bleeped. Attention MTV: It’s cable. Either let people curse openly or insist that they don’t curse at all. The bleeping (it’s really temporary muting) is distracting. Cue obligatory Jersey Shore cast STD joke. Hardy-har-har!

13:00: Nicki Minaj (dressed like a complete idiot) and the newly emaciated Jonah Hill present Best Pop Video. It really is alarming seeing Hill, who seems to have literally dropped half of his weight. I don’t see how he could have possibly done that so fast without surgery. Good on him, though. He jokes about the people who have been saying that now that he’s not fat he won’t be funny anymore. I like that self-awareness. He then drops a quick plug for Moneyball (September 23!). I’m guessing no more than 14 people in that room have any idea what Moneyball is. Old Lady Spears beats out Katy Perry, Adele and…other people. Good to see Britney looking presentable again.

OH, HAI! WHERE U BEEN?

-This girl Jessie J is the house band playing during commercial breaks. It looks like she broke her ankle or something, so she’s performing in a chair with a boot on her foot. I’ve heard of Jessie J, but if you asked me to pick her music out of a lineup, I’d fail.

-I decided to watch the first commercial break, because I want to see what’s being advertised to teenagers these days. Nothing out of the ordinary during the first break. Wait, a commercial for A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas. And now I want to cut my wrists. Why are they advertising a B-movie that comes out at the end of November now? Stupid. Needless to say, since I haven’t yet seen a Harold & Kumar movie, I’m probably not gonna start with the one that’s in 3D.

23:00: Jay-Z & Kanye West perform “Otis” off their new collaboration album Watch the Throne. More bleeped out cursing. Kanye is wearing skinny jeans and a denim shirt. Another cutaway to Justin Bieber, who can’t be bothered to even clap once the song is over. The song is pretty cool, but it’s not close to the best work from either of them. I’ve only listened to the whole album once, but it’s solid.

Which gives me an idea for our Recommended Listening today. This is my favorite track off Watch the Throne, track #1, “No Church in the Wild”:

26:00: Miley Cyrus and Shaun White present Best Rock Video. I don’t know anything about 3 of the nominees (Foster the People, Mumford & Sons, Cage the Elephant), but a band I have heard of (Foo Fighters) end up winning. Goodie for them. Dave Grohl gives a shoutout to Joel Schumacher and Falling Down, which apparently inspired the video for whatever song they won for.

-They show a commercial for Moneyball during the second break, in which Jonah Hill is still pudgy. It’s gonna be weird seeing him in red carpet pictures for Moneyball and The Sitter (the two movies he’s in this fall), where in the posters and clips you’re gonna see him where he’s twice as big as he is now. He literally doesn’t look like the same guy anymore. Freaky. Anyway, I enjoyed the Moneyball spot, but wow is this the wrong crowd to be advertising that film to. Way to waste that marketing money, Columbia. That was probably $75,000 down the toilet. Next time you guys wanna throw away that much money, give it to me instead. How’s that sound? It’s a shame nobody is going to see this movie. I just don’t see any way this is a hit at the box office, though with the pedigree involved (Capote director Bennett Miller, a script by Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian, producer Scott Rudin, stars Brad Pitt and Philip Seymour Hoffman), it’s already being touted as one of the early Oscar contenders.

30:00: They cut to some stupid thing called the Twitter Tracker, showing how many VMA-related tweets have gone out since the start of the show and which artists are being talked about the most. I suppose this is interesting to…who the fuck does find this interesting anyway? Social media OMG!!!

-A promo for the upcoming Real World: San Diego. I love how they’re just redoing all the previous Real World cities. This cast doesn’t look all that interesting. It looks like they have a gay guy AND a genderbender. Whatever, I’ll probably give it a chance. The Real World has long been one of my guilty pleasures, and this last season (where they revisited Las Vegas) was pretty damn entertaining, which makes them 2-for-2 in Sin City. Maybe they should just do Vegas every season. But are we really out of cities we can visit? Come on. You wouldn’t watch The Real World: Worcester? Real World: Compton? I’m betting you would.

-Oh look, they found a way to incorporate Rebecca Black into the VMAs! Yay!!! Moving on…

35:00: Jack Black, Seth Rogen and Will Ferrell come out as “The Beastie Boys of the Future”, which is utterly dumb and unfunny and pointless, but leads to the introduction of Best Hip Hop Video. Nicki Minaj wins, and she still hasn’t changed out of that stupid outfit. Nicki, you’re fucking gorgeous. Dress like it.

Is there a category this year for Best Hip Hop Song with a Subpar Trendy Electronic Dance Beat?

45:00: Best Collaboration goes to my baby Katy Perry & Kanye West for “E.T.” It’s sad that Kanye West seems to be done interrupting people on stage and going on douchey, selfish tirades.

SIDE BAR RANT: Chris Brown was one of the collaboration nominees. I love how this complete piece of shit has no problem finding people to work with him. Is there NO ONE in the industry who looks at him and says, “Nope. Can’t do it. Don’t want to be associated with him.” No one has those moral principles, I guess. At least not publicly. How quickly we forget and dismiss. It’s like all his fans and the media and other musicians wanted the whole thing to go away without the guy suffering any real consequences. It’s pathetic, really. “Forget Rihanna! She’ll live! We need Chris Brown to get back to making misogynistic music we can shake our asses to!” This is basically what his female fans are saying. This dude can beat the shit out of an equally popular female celebrity and be back to work almost immediately, but we still have people whining about Michael Vick and dog abuse, even though Vick went to prison. No no, we can’t let go of THAT! Meanwhile, Chris Brown merely has a restraining order against him, which may or may not even still be in effect. For shame.

47:00: Paul Rudd & Rick Ross do the “We’re presenting together but we’re so different!” routine and introduce this Pitbull/Ne-Yo performance. Where did this Pitbull guy come from, anyway? He sounds like Sean Paul but looks like a Latino Vin Diesel without the muscles. A weird looking fellow, whose sole purpose in the industry seems to be to perform backup vocals and hooks for party songs. I guess that’s one way to make a living. Actually, this song should win “Best Hip Hop Song with a Subpar Trendy Electronic Dance Beat”. I do genuinely like Ne-Yo, though. He’s a damn good singer with several really good songs, and he was pretty good earlier this year on the big screen in Battle: Los Angeles.

-They just showed a promo for a new MTV series called I Just Want My Pants Back. WHAT?!

57:00: Katy Perry introduces the Adele performance. It’s nice when an artist is known only for their talents as a musician. I admit I’m late to the Adele bandwagon. Actually I’m not even on it. I’ve yet to listen to her album. But I know who she is, and that she’s known for being a damned good singer, not for what she wears, who she’s dating, or for any kind of outrageous behavior or other controversy. That’s always refreshing. And she’s British, which is cool. As expected, she gives a great performance.

-MTV shows an alarming amount of birth control/pregnancy test commercials. I suppose they have to after making a bunch of pregnant 16 year olds famous because of that stupid reality show, Teen Mom, which may be the most exploitative show in television history.

-It’s always interesting to see a commercial for a movie you didn’t even know existed. I just saw a spot for Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star, which is the latest attempt by Adam Sandler to produce a movie starring only his buddies. See for yourself. Further reminder that mid-August thru mid-September is the absolute worst time of year for movies.

1:10:00: Kim Kardashian (who, again, is famous because of a SEX TAPE, having a HUGE ASS, dating mid-level celebrities and being the daughter of one of the guys who got O.J. Simpson off) presents Best Male Video. And the winner is Justin Bieber, who can only barely be described as a male, and is only famous himself because of YouTube. These are America’s stars. Aye vai!

1:13:00: Chris Brown performs a dance routine, surrounded by fawning women, all of whom have conveniently forgotten what this asshole is capable of. They carry him above the stage on wires a few times, and I openly wish for the wires to snap. Kanye West gives him a standing ovation, as does Justin Bieber. Bravo. Is it clear yet how much I despise Chris Brown?

-Oh yay! Another Twitter Tracker update! #YOUCOULDNTPAYMETOGIVEAFUCK

1:24:00: Lady Gaga comes out, again dressed like a man, and presents the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award to Britney Spears. Shouldn’t GaGa be wearing a bear suit or a dress made of tampons by now? It’s sad looking at these video clips, remembering just how hot Spears was 7 years ago. GaGa can’t force her ego down long enough to stand back and allow Spears to say anything. And then Spears’ acceptance speech turns into another introduction, this time for a Beyoncé performance. As it turns out, Beyoncé announced on the VMA red carpet that she’s pregnant, which instantly detonated the internet. Beyoncé pregnant! 40-somethin people just died because of Hurricane Irene, but who gives a fuck! Beyoncé is pregnant!!! The 10th anniversary of September 11 is coming up. Who gives a fuck! Show me pictures of Beyoncé’s belly!!!

Kanye West shoves Jay-Z around in the audience, as if it was a surprise to him that Jay-Z is the father.

-A TV spot for Abduction, in which Hollywood tries to turn a 19-year old kid into an action star. God help us. And god help John Singleton, who used to be a real director. How did it come to this, brotha?

1:40:00: Selena Gomez and the aforementioned Taylor Lautner out to present Best New Artist. U Mad, Bieber? The winner is some guy named Tyler, the Creator. I haven’t heard a single thing this guy has done, but I’ve actually heard his album is decent. He comes on stage and bleep-curses up a storm. Stay classy, Tyler.

1:43:00: Jared Leto and Zoe Saldana introduce a performance by another band I’ve never heard of. The lead singer of this band is holding two microphones and alternating between them. Whatever, bro. I stopped listening to their performance to preview some Tyler, the Creator songs on iTunes.

1:53:00: Obligatory presentation by Jersey Shore cast for Best Female Video. God that was fucking awkward. Please don’t put any of these people in scripted television or films. GaGa wins, and completely ignores the Jersey Shore cast once she gets to the stage. This amuses me.

2:03:00: Russell Brand comes out to do a dedication to Amy Winehouse, who was apparently his friend. He does a nice job, though calling her a genius is probably a stretch. Tony Bennett comes out and introduces a clip of a duet he’d just recorded with her, and Bruno Mars covers one of her songs. Mr. Mars, love ya, but that haircut has got to go. He looks like Lady GaGa’s lesbian girlfiend. Anyway, he does a very nice job.

What the hell is on your head?

2:17:00: For some reason, Lionsgate decides to show the first footage from The Hunger Games on the VMAs. Jennifer Lawrence introduces the clip via a video recorded on set. And they may as well have not shown anything. It’s less than a minute, and pretty much just Lawrence running through the woods, then she shoots an arrow at the screen that becomes the film’s logo. Totally pointless. I’m still dumbfounded by the hype around this Hunger Games shit. If it was such a huge series of books, why did I not know anything about it until the movie was announced?

2:20:00: Katie Holmes, of all people, presents Video of the Year to Katy Perry. And Perry has placed a giant yellow block on her head.

I’ll tolerate it because I love you!

2:25:00: Featuring Drake (this is his new name, says me) presents the final performance from Lil Wayne, who has Auto Tune preset in his mic for “How to Love.” Umm, I don’t go to a lot of concerts, but just from watching this, I declare that Auto Tuning does not work live. In fact, it sounds so bad that I’m fast forwarding. He performs another song, but I have no clue what it is because he’s swearing so much that 70% of it is bleeped out. Brilliant planning. “Hey, Wayne, why don’t you perform a song that we can’t air?” “Great idea!” Somehow, I don’t think the skinny jeans look is gonna catch on with his black fans.

And that’s it! Yippee! It wasn’t as painful as I thought it might be. I recognized more of the artists than I thought I would, and almost all of the live performances were pretty good. That said, it was nothing special. I didn’t see any new artists that scream to be listened to, and I didn’t see any bands that look like they’ve got any staying power, either. Nor were there any truly classic songs performed or nominated in any category. There also weren’t any true superstars. If Justin Bieber is what counts as insanely popular these days, than the music industry truly is hurting. And yes, I realize the VMAs are not an ideal place to discover new music, but if I haven’t really been following new music for a few years, it should be a place where I see something new that I might like. Right?

It’s clichéd to sit back and say that the music of “today’s generation” is terrible, and that music was much better when I was 21. It seems every adult has said that for the last 50 years. So I won’t go there, mainly because I don’t want to sound like one of the people I despised when I was younger, when old, out of touch farts would complain about Eminem‘s lyrics. Sure, 10 years ago we had the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC and other such sugar pop, but we also had Green Album Weezer, OutKast, Dr. Dre, the emergence of people like Alicia Keys, The Strokes and Coldplay (back when hipsters liked them), to name a few. U2 (All That You Can’t Leave Behind) and Bruce Springsteen (The Rising) put out some of their best work 10 years ago. We still have guys like Jay-Z today, but he doesn’t belong to this generation. He belongs to my generation, who have been fans of his since the 90’s. Same thing for Eminem. He may have put out a great album last year that these kids are into, but he broke through in 1999 and put out his true masterpiece (The Marshal Mathers LP) in 2000. I see a lack of true greatness in modern music. Is there any album in the past 3 or 4 years you’d call a masterpiece? There are a lot of good artists who have come up in the past few years, but where are the legends? Where are the legendary songs? Where are the people who actually have something to say? Something other than, “Fuck you!” or “Let’s party!” Where is the substance in today’s music? Is there any? Is there anyone in rap/hip-hop interested in anything other than party songs that will sell a bunch of copies on iTunes that white people can grind to in the club? Sure doesn’t seem like it.

And if you can answer any of the questions I just posed about the artists of 2011, please point me to them. I’m desperate to discover new music, but it seems to be very difficult to find anything worth a damn right now. Shit, I just went there, didn’t I? Well, I am 79 years old. Fuck’em.

Rory McIlroy, Whether You Like It Or Not (and other late June randomness!)

Here is the latest trailer for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II, and likely the final official trailer for the entire Harry Potter movie franchise.

I dig it. As I’ve said, one of the greatest strengths of the Potter franchise is its consistency. That may also be its downfall. All of the movies are at least okay, most are good or very good, and none of them are anything close to bad (as movies!- you diehards can argue their merit as adaptations of the books elsewhere with someone who gives a shit). However, because they stay within a certain comfort zone and have to exclude or compact a lot of additional character and plot details/depth from the books, none of them have been spectacularly great, either. I’ve never nominated any of them for Best Picture on my own awards, or in any of the other major categories either (director, adapted screenplay, no acting nominations). I’d love for this to be some Return of the King-level, biblically epic finale, but I have literally 10 years’ worth of Harry Potter movies telling me that would be an unrealistic expectation. Nevertheless, I remain hopeful. And let’s face it, with the way 2011 is going, this is the best chance the series has had to crack the end-of-year “best of” lists.

-Another interesting new trailer is the first clip for Moneyball, based on Michael Lewis‘ best-selling book. It stars Brad Pitt, of all people, as Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane (yes, you read that right). For the non-sports people out there, Moneyball is about how Beane was one of the first executives in baseball to adapt sabermetrics and computer analysis into his player personnel decisions (a common practice now, probably most expertly utilized by Theo Epstein and his team for the Red Sox if I do say so myself), and how his careful attention to minor statistical details allowed the small market, low budget A’s to field a competitive, playoff-bound team at the tail end of the steroids era. It’s a fascinating inside-baseball story. I haven’t read the book, but I’ve always been curious about it. In other words, if I read books at the same frequency I see movies, I’d have read it long ago. The project has a solid cast (Robin Wright, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jonah Hill, and most interestingly former MLB player Royce Clayton making his acting debut playing another real baseball player, Miguel Tejada), but took a long time to come together, because yeah…how do you make a movie about this that more than 50 people will want to see? Whether or not you care about baseball or sports movies in general, there’s only one thing you need to know about this to get your ass in a theater…the script was written by Mothafuckin Aaron Sorkin (he is now elevated above being just Aaron Sorkin). I would watch a movie written by Sorkin if the subject was the forming of a friggin internet company (ba-dum-bum). Moneyball comes out September 23, positioning it as one of the first awards contenders of the year, though I’m not totally convinced this is an awards-bait type movie. I’m very interested to find out. Regardless, I love baseball movies, and I love movies and shows about behind-the-scenes goings on (something Mothafuckin Aaron Sorkin specializes in), so I think it’ll be right up my alley.

-I saw the trailer for Horrible Bosses again in front of Green Lantern. I think the movie has a great [whitewashed] cast and looks really funny, but I can’t get over the logic breakdown with regards to Jennifer Aniston‘s “boss” character. Am I really supposed to believe a guy in his early 30’s is gonna be offended by his superhot female boss constantly making sexual advances at him? That’s every man’s dream! Geez. They better address this conundrum in the movie, cuz right now, I ain’t buyin it. And on the topic of whitewashing (this is going to be a recurring theme going forward, like it or not- I’ve f’n had it with Hollywood’s hypocrisy), it’s worth noting that the only black character we see in the trailer (played by Jamie Foxx) refers to himself as the “murder consultant.” Need I say more?


No! Don’t do that! Get away!
Puh-leeze, bro.

-It’s looking like Quentin Tarantino‘s next movie, Django Unchained, has the potential to be even more badass than Inglourious Basterds (the first film of Tarantino’s that I truly loved). First off all, what a cool premise; Django, a freed slave, teams up with a German bounty hunter to take on an evil plantation owner in order to retrieve his long-lost love, Broomhilda. It was just announced that Jamie Foxx will play Django (awesome!), and we already knew that Basterds Oscar winner Christoph Waltz will play the German bounty hunter, and the villainous plantation owner will be played by none other than Leonardo DiCaprio. DiCaprio’s first major villain role, and it’ll be a Tarantino villain. Holy shit. On top of all that, Tarantino veteran Samuel L. Jackson will also appear, playing the right-hand man to DiCaprio. I’m sorry, but that is one fucking amazing cast. The role of Broomhilda is not yet locked in, but rumors are it may go to Kerry Washington, who I also adore. Tarantino is claiming this will be made in the style of the old Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns, a genre that’s always had a huge influence on his style. My friends, Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained; one more reason 2012 will be the best year in movie history. Just remember who’s been calling it.

TV Recommendation: If you have Netflix Watch Instantly, I must politely demand that you check out the BBC’s new Sherlock Holmes show, simply called Sherlock. The show debuted last year, and was just 3 episodes, but each episode is close to 90 minutes long, so they’re more like TV-movies than episodes. This iteration stars Benedict Cumberbatch (which may be the most British name in history) as Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as John Watson, who in this version is British army doctor who has just returned from a tour in Afghanistan. What’s most interesting about the show is that it takes place in modern day, and it assumes the classic, 19th century Sir Arthur Conan Doyle characters never existed. It’s a very cool way to “reboot” that character on television. Funny enough, Martin Freeman is playing the younger Bilbo in Peter Jackson‘s two Hobbit movies, and Cumberbatch was recently announced as being cast as the voice of the dragon Smaug.

Two of the three episodes were directed by Paul McGuigan, who directed the highly underrated Lucky Number Slevin (as well as the properly rated Push and Wicker Park). His direction and visual style are on point, so the episodes aren’t just movie-length, but they also look as good as a studio movie, too. Though the show is totally unrelated to the Guy Ritchie/Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes movies, some of the show’s visual style is certainly reminiscent of the new movie, and the music from the show is heavily influenced by Hans Zimmer‘s fantastic 2009 Holmes score, and I intend both those things as a compliment. The middle episode was just okay, but the first and third parts are excellent. They’re beautifully shot and exquisitely written. I won’t spoil anything, but the way they handle and introduce Holmes’ arch nemesis, Moriarty, is equally great. I can’t recommend this highly enough. Good drama, good detective procedural stuff, great writing, great acting, great filmmaking, and thick British accents. If you’re interested in any of those things, this show is for you.

No word on when we’ll be able to see season 2 in the States (to the best of my knowledge it hasn’t even aired in the UK yet), but I am really excited to see more of this version of these characters.


BAM!

-So the first season of Game of Thrones is over, meaning I have nothing to watch on HBO until the final season of Entourage begins late next month (sorry, I don’t do True Blood). After just 10 episodes, I’d say Game of Thrones easily makes my all-time top 10 favorite TV shows, if I had an official list (I don’t, though the top 3 would be locked in: Star Trek: The Next Generation, The West Wing and 24). I thought it would be really good, and I was excited because it was going to be so ambitious, but I couldn’t have imagined I’d love it as much as I did. Thank god for HBO, because this show could not exist in this form on any other network. They’ve been hit or miss of late (you couldn’t get me to watch Hung with a gun to my head, and Treme just looks utterly boring, unless you live in New Orleans), but GoT was a 3-run homerun. It wasn’t a grand slam, because I’m pissed that the first season was only 10 episodes (but you can understand why, when these 10 shows cost a reported $100 million). I love these characters, and I find this fantasy world fascinating, rich with detail, and full of life. And it’s still obvious they had to leave out a great deal from George R.R. Martin‘s 4 books (though if I’m right, the first season only covers part of 1 book). The only thing I didn’t like about the finale was that it ended on such a huge “Holy shit! Now what!?” cliffhanger. I’m becoming increasingly less and less a fan of cliffhangers as season finales on TV. I’m outright angry that I’ll now have to wait until April 2012 for season 2 to begin (HBO loves a long wait). That said, the books are out there, and because I’m so interested in finding out what happens next (and I want more details about what we’ve already seen), I’m probably gonna end up buying the books sometime soon and diving in, because I refuse to wait 10 months to learn more. If this season doesn’t get nominated for at least a dozen Emmys, the TV Academy is even dumber than the Oscar voters.

-In this space, I was going to do a bit about Shaquille O’Neal‘s retirement, but in the interests of time (I wanted to get this posted by Sunday), it’s getting left out. For now. I was gonna do an entire post about Shaq, because he was the first professional athlete I was ever a true fan of, and if not for him, I might not be as big a sports fan as I am today. Maybe I’ll get to a Shaq retrospective at some point, but for now, thank you Shaq, for making me an NBA fan, which eventually allowed me to become a fan of the NFL and MLB. It’s just a shame you couldn’t stay healthy when you were finally on my home team. Despite that, it was cool to see you in Celtic green, even if it didn’t happen til you were 39. The game will not be the same without you. With the loss of Shaq, that leaves 2 or 3 true centers left in the NBA. In Shaq’s glory days, we had Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, and Alonzo Mourning (when he was healthy) all clashing with each other. It was the pinnacle of big man play. Now, the utterly skill-less Dwight Howard is considered the “best” center in the league. Ugh. I miss the NBA from 1994-2000. I miss real centers (6-11 or taller big men with skill, athleticism and strength).

Rory McIlroy, an unassuming 22-year old from Northern Ireland, is golf’s new superstar, whether you like it or not, whether it’s actually true or not. This is the power of the media in 2011. The reason is because he blew away the competition this past weekend to win his first major, this year’s U.S. Open. He did so by leading wire-to-wire and winning with a U.S. Open record final score 16-under par and an Open record score of 268. The national sports media, lacking someone to idolize now that Tiger Woods‘ career is stalled by injury, age and personal matters, has been begging for years for “The Next Tiger”, or at the very least for someone to consistently challenge Tiger at the major championship tournaments. When Tiger isn’t winning, they turn their focus to Phil Mickelson, but Mickelson is hit or miss during most majors, and he and Tiger are rarely great at the same tournament. Also, for the casual fan, when Tiger isn’t doing well, golf just isn’t that interesting. Thus, the sport (and all its well-to-do writers) needs another player who is good enough consistently enough to draw attention to the sport, and viewers to the TV ratings. Many of these people believe McIlroy is that player.

I agree that golf needs a new star, or at least a backup star for when Tiger is out of action for extended periods of time (aka right now). My problem is how quickly and unanimously the sports media has leaped onto this McIlroy bandwagon. They want a new star so badly that the first guy who showed any kind of legitimacy is being handed the throne in Tiger’s absence. I say it’s too soon. And I’ve always hated when everyone in the media thought the same thing. There’s just something inherently wrong with that. And I looked. There’s hardly anyone brave enough to cast any serious doubt.

This reminds me of how the media spent a decade desperately trying to find “The Next Michael Jordan“. How many guys did they give that label to? At least 10? And how did that turn out for Isaiah Rider, Anfernee Hardaway, Jerry Stackhouse, Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady and Harold “Baby Jordan” Miner? The closest we ever got is Kobe Bryant, and I think the Jordan vs. Kobe debate is a legitimate one. The point is that it’s not good enough that a player be extremely talented. He has to also win. A lot. That’s what sets Jordan and Tiger (and yes, Kobe) apart. What also sets them apart is an unrivaled competitive drive.

This is also akin to what Hollywood has been doing for the last 10-15 years, trying to force new “movie stars” on us (i.e. Ben Affleck, Colin Farrell, Orlando Bloom, and now guys like Sam Worthington, Bradley Cooper and Robert Pattinson), instead of letting it happen naturally. They don’t realize that audiences make movie stars, not casting directors or producers. It’s very similar in sports, where stars are made with a combination of skill, winning and fan adoration. You can’t just tell us Rory McIlroy is The Man. He has to earn it.

And please, while you’re at it, name the last non-American athlete who was truly a superstar in America. If we still don’t care about David Beckham, why is a 22-year old Irish kid gonna capture the hearts of Americans? As far as mass appeal goes in sports, Americans generally love Americans. I could personally list about 5 non-American athletes I greatly respect and admire (Roger Federer for one), but for Joe ‘Podunk’ Smith in Missouri, if it ain’t Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson, he’s not someone worth remembering. Maybe I’ll be wrong about this, but I doubt it. Until then, if McIlroy hasn’t won 5 majors by the time he’s 25, he’s not The Next Tiger Woods.

The good news is McIlroy isn’t buying into his own hype, and I’m certainly not implying he’s cocky, or anything like that. In fact, all signs point to the contrary. This false/premature idolatry, like much of our woe, is the media’s creation. For my money, I hope Tiger was watching the U.S. Open and thinking, “I can’t wait to come back and kick this kid’s ass.”


You ain’t Tiger, bro.

-I’m starting to get interested in the 2012 election. The Republican field seems to be taking shape, and President Obama has all but jettisoned the idea of getting anything done and is basically in full re-election campaign mode (which is kind of infuriating, isn’t it?). It seems to be true that a new President has about a year and a half to implement policy, then he spends the next year and a half fighting with the opposing party, and spends the final year campaigning for his job. Have I mentioned that the two-party system SUCKS FUCKING HIPPO ASS? Yes, I have, haven’t I?

I’m not particularly enamored with any of the GOP candidates (as always, I need to state that despite my constant railing against liberals and Democrats, I am not a Republican), but I was pulling for Mitt Romney in ’08, and I’m glad he’s the frontrunner now, although obviously it’s still very early. However, most pundits get the sense that Romney will maintain this momentum, and that Michelle Bachmann is likely to be his most formidable challenger. Bachmann seems to carry herself well, but like many of these guys, she’s probably too far to the right for my personal taste, and the attack dogs in the mainstream media will do everything they can to attack her credibility. Though it’s hard to imagine the media hate for her eclipsing what they did (and are still pathetically doing) to Sarah Palin. I don’t get the sense that Jon Huntsman or Tim Pawlenty can set themselves apart (they’re too, how shall we say…vanilla), and Rick Santorum is way too far right for me (basically, if you bring God into 100% of your policy decisions, you’re too far right for me). I continue to admire Ron Paul‘s fighting spirit, but after ’08, it’s clear his libertarianism will not get him the support needed from the GOP base to make any serious headway. He also doesn’t LOOK presidential, does he? President Paul? I don’t think so.

I don’t know if he’s a good enough candidate yet, but nothing would please me more than to see Herman Cain win the nomination and challenge Barack Obama for the presidency. I wonder, will the media cry racism every single time Cain gets criticized? Actually, I don’t wonder at all about that. Of course they won’t. Cain is a great speaker and an energetic presence, but we still have a long way to go. I didn’t officially endorse anybody last time out, but I’d certainly like to be able to strongly believe in a presidential candidate for once. God forbid.

-LAWL! Did you know that President Obama’s position on gay marriage is “evolving”? Sounds deep. In the words of Keanu Reeves…whoa. [Politico]

-Because just about everyone on the internet has weighed in on this, I thought it might be worth a moment to talk about the death of Ryan Dunn, the Jackass star who drove his Porsche while intoxicated at twice the legal limit of Pennsylvania. As a result of his drinking and likely a good amount of stupidity he already had, he crashed the car at such velocity (reportedly he was driving as fast as 140 mph, nearly triple the 55mph speed limit) that it basically disintegrated upon impact with a tree, killing himself and his passenger instantly. And I chose those words on purpose. He didn’t die, he killed himself. It was no accident. When you drink that much and then decide to get into a Porsche, you want to crash. I’m not gonna say he deserved to die, but yeah, better the drunk asshole than an innocent bystander or innocent motorist who was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Are you getting the sense that I have no sympathy here? I’m not happy about it, of course, but let’s face it, the man died as he lived. It’s pure luck that it was 3:30am and that he only killed himself and his friend. That’s something to be thankful about.

I also found interesting that Dunn’s fellow Jackass mate and close friend Bam Margera threw a weeping hissyfit once a few people on Twitter pointed out how unsurprised they were by Dunn’s death. He choose to lash out against those people, instead of using his influence among young people and fans of Jackass-like insanity to point out what can happen when you drink and drive, and to actively speak out against it. That was sad.

And now here’s Margera and his mom several years ago predicting Dunn would do this:

-Finally, if you can’t get enough Stanley Cup Bruins porn, check out the 9-minute video in this story of the Bruins visiting Fenway, placing the Cup on the mound and throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. [RedSox.com]

Recommended Listening: I know a lot of you don’t share my love for electronic music, but I’m kind of obsessed with this song right now. This is Ron Hagen & Al Exander‘s “Now is the Time (Armin van Buuren Intro Edit)”, and it’s track 1 on Disc 2 of Armin van Buuren‘s A State of Trance 2011 compilation. I love the mood this song creates. It’s got both a sense of longing and regret, but with some hope mixed in as well. In other words, pretty much exactly how I’ve been feeling lately. This is what electronic music does better than just about every other genre, in my view…it encapsulates moods and feelings. That’s what most people who dismiss it don’t understand. Their loss.  Anyway, check it out, brah:  


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