Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The 2012 Oscars


In 2010, the Oscars decided to nominate every movie they could think of for picture of the year. They didn’t want anyone to feel left out so everyone got invited. Apparently, the term “quality not quantity” didn’t make much sense to them. As a result, we now have a mixed bag of films to choose from. Considering this has been a bland year for movies, it’s not surprising how many mediocre films are in the race is this year.

Here are the nominees:

The Help

I never saw it, but I do I have an opinion. Any time your guy friend, who’s not into movies, meets you to play basketball, and during one of the breaks says: “Dude, you’ve got to see The Help,” and several other guys chime in, it’s time to take notice. Men and women alike have all been impressed. It won’t win picture of the year, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone in the cast is recognized (Viola Davis for best actress.)






Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

I don’t understand how a movie with extremely mixed reviews and incredibly little fanfare gets nominated for picture of the year. I think a movie should be appreciated by at least 2/3 of the critics before it can make the cut for best movie (it received only 46% positive reviews on rottentomatoes.com.) This film is like that guy that’s not invited to the party but shows up anyway. Why are you even here?

The Tree of Life

This film represents the “I’ve never heard of it, but it’s sophisticated” genre. If nobody has ever heard or seen the film, then why is it even nominated? I’m sure it’s beautiful. I’m sure it’s whimsical. I’m sure it’s boring. Next!

War Horse

Just because a movie is an epic time-piece about a heroic animal directed by Spielberg, does not mean that it’s an Oscar caliber movie. War Horse—what is it good for? Absolutely nothing. (I’m sure it’s an okay movie, but I wanted to put in the last line because it sounded cool.)

Rise of the Planet of the Apes














To my surprise, this was one of the best movies of the year. The action was spectacular, the storytelling touching, and the climax incredible. Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a great movie.

But wait a second—it was not even nominated. Apparently, it was too fun and too exciting to enter the race. And Andy Serkis’ Oscar bid for digitally playing Caesar disappeared faster than you can say: “Who’s Andy Serkis?”

If it had been set in 19th century England, and Judi Dench played one of the apes, I bet it would’ve been nominated. Consider it retribution for James Franco’s hideous hosting job from last year.

Random Tangent

No, this isn’t a movie title, although if it was...

Random Tangent starring Nicolas Cage, directed by John Woo. “This angle can’t miss.”  A calculus professor must use mathematic equations and brute force in order to get back his kidnapped daughter.

The random tangent is actually me just venting. How the hell did The King’s Speech win best picture last year? It was a nice story, but The Social Network, Inception, The Fighter (the list goes on) were all better. It’s not an opinion. It’s a fact.

Just because a movie is British, does not mean that it’s good. Just because it’s a period piece, does not mean that’s it classic. Just because the Weinsteins produced it, does not mean perfection. Their fingerprints were all over The King’s Speech last year. They did it with Shakespeare in Love too. Everyone is afraid of the Weinsteins. They must be a very persuasive family.  

Midnight in Paris

It’s no Annie Hall, but it’s nice to see Woody Allen create another great movie and be recognized for his work. If you want some more insight into Woody Allen, check out the latest documentary through American Masters on PBS. It surely deserves some awards for showing the rise and fall and rise of the great comedian and his work.

The Descendants

This movie blows away the competition for most scenes with someone crying. I actually enjoyed the film, but kept waiting for that great scene where you get chills, teary eyed, and feel connected to the characters. Unfortunately, it never happened. It was a pleasant ride that never lives up to its potential. Clooney is charming, but the movie isn’t. Despite all the energy put into it, I felt kind of empty at the end. The Oscars love Alexander Payne (Sideways was recognized, but Election was actually better) and George Clooney (the voters will always be swayed by his dreaminess.) This got them into the big dance, but they definitely don’t deserve to win.

Hugo

This was one of the most visually stunning movies of the year. Scorcese proved he could actually direct a movie without using the “F” word. But when you take away the visuals, the story is completely scattered. If you disagree, try explaining the plot to a friend:

“Hugo is about a boy who lives in a clock with a robot. He is caught stealing mechanical parts from a local merchant who is old and grumpy. The merchant finds the boy’s book about the robot and goes crazy. The security guard tries to take away the boy to the orphanage. The boy escapes, and befriends the old man’s granddaughter. They break into his house and find out the robot can draw magical pictures. The grandfather freaks out and becomes depressed. Then we learn for an hour that he used to be a great filmmaker. Then they all become friends. The end.”

I don’t want to be a downer, but this is going to win the best picture of the year? It’s a nice homage to filmmaking, but it’s also a mess. Sorry Marty, take away the 3-D glasses, and you have a nice but really sloppy story. 

Moneyball
 
This is a very good movie. For years, I wondered how they were going to take Michael Lewis’ book about stats and numbers and make it into a successful movie. Aaron Sorkin saves the day with yet another incredible script (he also penned The Social Network.) The acting is sound. The story is solid. And there are some awesome feel good scenes.

But if Moneyball was made last year, I don’t think it would have even been nominated. Since the field is so weak, suddenly it’s a contender for picture of the year. I love baseball, and I love the movies, but Moneyball is not an Oscar caliber picture. It’s a good movie that’s been amplified because of Brad Pitt and Aaron Sorkin. Enjoy it, but I’d be shocked if it wins the best picture of the year.


The Artist














This is why we go to the movies. I was a little hesitant to see The Artist. It was black and white, and IT HAD NO SOUND! Who do these people think they are? What kind of modern day movie is silent?

The result is breathtaking. The Artist takes a simple story and conveys it through images and acting. There is sound by the way. The music sums up feelings and emotions better than most actors with voices.

The Artist reminded me why I go to the movies in the first place: to escape and to dream. I felt transported back into the past when there were no cell phones or internet. The nostalgia hung in the air as I soaked in the love story. The visuals were beautiful and the acting impressive. The actors glow on the screen, and a smile or a wink in the camera seem so intimate and real.

The Artist will win because it’s the best movie. It helps that the Weinstein machine will be backing it. But it’s their first movie in a while that really deserves to win. It’s innovative, gutsy, charming, and beautiful. When it ended, I didn’t yearn for sound or voices. Instead, I simply sat back and reflected how beautiful film can be.  

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Jeremy Lin Show













Last week I got to see The Jeremy Lin Show live at Madison Square Garden. Chants of MVP filled the stadium as he tore up the Utah Jazz. He scored, assisted, rebounded, and made his teammates better. Today, I googled Jeremy Lin’s name and an infinite amount of links popped up.


The one that stood out to me was a tweet from boxer, Floyd Mayweather. Despite being very busy( he’s got a bout on May 5th, and then heads to jail on June 1st), he still pays a lot of attention to Jeremy Lin. This is what he had to say:

“Jeremy Lin is a good player but all the hype is because he’s Asian. Black players do what he does every night and don’t get the same praise.”

Here is my response.

Dear Floyd,

Here are 7 reasons why The Jeremy Lin Show is getting so much hype.

#1 The numbers speak for themselves

Lin was named player of the week because of his gaudy numbers and leadership. He averaged 27 points, 8 assists, and 4 rebounds while leading the dysfunctional Knicks to five straight wins. They were also without Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire. The Knicks look reenergized and suddenly functional with Lin running a simple pick and roll offense. Even as a Boston fan, I’ve enjoyed watching the Knicks play basketball at its purist. The team actually likes each other and it shows. Oh, yeah. Lin also poured in 38 points against the L.A. Lakers on national TV. And the night before Kobe Bryant was interviewed and didn’t have a clue who this guy was. Now he does.

#2 New York, New York

If Lin was putting up these numbers in Milwaukee, there would be some hype but nothing like this. Everyone knows New York is the most recognized city in the world and is known for their media, publicity, and hype. So anything that comes out of New York will be magnified to the millionth degree. And the fact that the Knicks were struggling before his emergence has made this a great story to run in every syndicate across the country.

It’s also a case of the Tim Tebow effect. People love feel-good stories and the media knows it. They will feature Lin daily until his game weakens, he gets hurt, or there’s a better headline.

#3 He’s a Geek

Jeremy Lin may know Good Will Hunting because he is a smaht kid. Straight out of Harvard, Lin represents a small minority of Ivy League educated kids ever to play professional sports in the modern era. Ryan Fitzpatrick (NFL, Harvard), Chris Young (MLB, Princeton), and Chris Dudley (NBA, Yale) are the very few that I could think of. It’s kind of like the scene in Airplane, when the woman asks for some light reading, and they give her a tiny pamphlet on Jewish sports stars. There are just not that many professional athletes with top notch educational backgrounds. But with Jeremy Lin from Harvard and Landry Fields from Stanford, the Knicks may have the smartest starting backcourt in NBA history.

#4 Jeremy Lin is a cool name

“Just Lin, Baby!” “Linsanity!” “The Jeremy Lin Show!” “The Jeremy Lin Experience!”

These are great headlines. They just work. And has there ever been another Jeremy in NBA history? Not that I know of.

#5 He Rarely Dunks

Lin is 6’ 3”, relatively short for NBA standards. He rarely dunks so his scoring has to be creative and the crowd loves that. He plays very similar to Steve Nash and has found innovative ways to get his shot off. This makes him and his highlights stand out.

#6 He came from Nowhere

Any time an undrafted player who has been cut by several teams emerges as a stud, they’re going to get a lot of attention. Have you never seen a story about Tom Brady? Jeremy Lin’s future was so in jeopardy that he has been crashing on his brother’s and teammates couches. These guys are the ultimate underdogs and fans love that. The “nobody” that came from “nowhere” is now a “somebody.” That’s the American dream or at least a Disney movie.

#7 Thank you Captain Obvious

Of course Jeremy Lin is receiving extra attention because he’s Asian-American. Floyd Mayweather, you are exactly right. If Jeremy Lin was black, he would get some attention for his play (for the reasons above), but nothing like this. But that’s the case with stories like this in every sport. In fact, in “white dominated” sports such as golf and tennis, Tiger Woods and the Williams sister have stood out because of their talent AND their race. So why can’t Jeremy Lin get extra attention because he is a geeky Asian dude from Harvard outdueling Kobe Bryant and others in a black dominated sport?

Floyd, I don’t think your comment is racist at all. I just think you sound really insecure. And by the way, your little tweet put Jeremy Lin in the spotlight even more. Congratulations!

Enjoy your jail time.

Sincerely,

The Corner

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Super Bowl XLVI

In 2007-08, the Patriots were undefeated going into the Super Bowl. It sounds strange, but 18-0 made me feel uncomfortable. Being from Boston, the idea of being the favorite was foreign to me. I didn’t know how to feel not just being the favorite, but possibly being the best team of all time. The hyperboles were unstoppable and so were the Patriots. It just seemed too good to be true.

When the Patriots were shocked by the Giants four years ago, I felt destroyed. But part of me was not all that surprised. It’s kind of like dating the perfect girl: a supermodel who loves sports, laughs at my jokes, makes a mean BBQ, gives massages, plays video games, and thinks the world revolves around me. In the back of my head, I would keep thinking: “What’s the catch?” That’s how I felt about the Patriots that year. I kept waiting for the catch. And then David Tyree literally showed me what that catch was.

This year I felt different. The Patriots were favored by Vegas, but the majority of the pundits were choosing the New York Football Giants. Even Maya Angelou told the Patriots to suck it. The real favorites were the Giants, and the Patriots were the true underdogs.

The Myra Kraft story touched my heart, and made the Patriots appear to be a team of destiny. If you’re not familiar with Myra, the late wife of owner Robert Kraft, just google her, and your heart will be warmed. When I read about Robert Kraft, the Patriots owner instrumental in ending the strike, it only seemed fitting that his team would win the Super Bowl.

Meanwhile, the Giants started opening their big mouths. They tweeted, talked, and shouted off the rooftops that they were going to be the champs. The Giants website even announced them the winners the night before the game, a gaffe that would have been sealed in infamy if the Patriots had won. The Giants took on the role as the bullies, the villains, and I liked it that way.

And then I made a big mistake. I actually believed the Patriots were going to win. I ignored all of my training as a Boston fan, and for one brief mistake, I became an optimist. I let my guard down and became vulnerable. And I completely forgot, that’s when it hurts the most. And that’s why this game crushed me even more then in 2007-08. I really thought the Patriots were going to win, and to be honest, I still don’t know what happened.

I’ve played the game again and again in my head, and if one little thing happened here or there, then….but  then I realize I can’t change the game.

What are the odds of the following things happening?

          1)The Safety      

Odds of happening: 4%

This was the strangest safety in Super Bowl history. I’ve seen similar plays including in the Giants playoff game versus the Falcons, but never when the quarterback throws it thirty yards downfield. How can the refs prove that a receiver didn’t fall down or someone ran the wrong route?  Either way, it was a pretty stupid play by Brady as he easily could’ve left the pocket before he released the pass, but we will discuss that more later.

2) Chase Blackburn's Interception Over Gronkowski

            Odds of happening: 1%

Gronkowski entered the game with the most prolific year in tight end history. Blackburn entered it working as a substitute teacher. Gronkowski shattered football records. Blackburn played hangman with his students.

Gronk’s injury played a huge impact, but he is still 6’ 7” and was up against a linebacker/substitute teacher. In a miraculous feat, Mr. Blackburn jumped over the monsterous Gronk to make an interception of a lifetime.  The ball was underthrown (another curious mistake by Brady), but if that same play happens 100 times, it gets knocked down 49 times, caught by Gronk 50 times, and picked off once. 

3) Welker's Drop

Odds of happening: .05%

Cris Collinsworth put it best: “Welker makes that catch one hundred times out of hundred.” The ball was not thrown perfectly (Brady issue again?), but I have to agree with Cris on this one. I have no idea what happened. Gisele should shut her mouth and stick to modeling, but in the end, she said what we were all thinking: “How did he not catch that?” They would not have scored on that play, but the way they were moving, there’s little doubt that they were going to.

4) Manningham's Catch

Odds of happening: 10%

This was one of the best catches in Super Bowl history. The Giants now have two on the list versus the Patriots. It was a perfect throw, a perfect catch. There’s nothing more to say.

      5) Giants fumbling THREE times with ZERO turnovers

Odds of happening: 7%

The Giants recovered two of their own fumbles and one was nullified because the Patriots had too many men on the field (the extra player was not even involved in the play.) The ball just seemed to bounce right back to them every time. That bring us to…

LUCK

The Giants got lucky. This isn’t a knock against them at all. They clearly took advantage of having that luck. Eli was mentally tough, and they made the plays they needed to make.  But luck has become a huge part of making a Super Bowl run in the last decade.

The Patriots started their 21st century dominance on a lucky play, The Infamous Tuck Rule. The Giants won Super Bowl XLII on a lucky catch. The Patriots made the Super Bowl this year on a lucky missed kick by Billy Cundiff. And the Giants were lucky when they got two tragic mistakes from Kyle Williams. 

The Super Bowl has been so close that a couple of lucky moments now decides the winner and loser. This year the ball literally bounced in the Giants favor. Every Brady Super Bowl has been decided by 4 points of less. One lucky play either way could have made him a 5 time champion or a deluxe version of Jim Kelly.

IS BRADY OVERRATED?

I don’t think so, but this story should and will be discussed throughout the year. Here is the argument:

Brady is an incredible regular season quarterback, much like Peyton Manning, but in the playoffs he is extremely average. His quarterback rating is an 86.0 in playoff games (and remember that includes the Denver blowout), more than ten points less than the regular season. He won two Super Bowl MVPs, but the first was based on one great drive at the end of the game against the Rams, and that’s about it. The defense clearly won that game for him. He played great in Super Bowl XXXVIII and decent in Super Bowl XXXIX, still made a few costly errors in each one, and barely emerged as a winner. And against the Giants, he has been nothing but average.

His numbers this past Super Bowl were fairly decent, but when you break down his mistakes, they were awful. He took a safety on the first play of the first possession. It was a stupid mistake that should not have happened. Not only did he give up two points, but it set up the Giants in good field position for the first touchdown.  He under threw Gronkowski on the interception, and threw behind Branch on that fourth quarter drive. Welker’s drop was inexcusable, but the pass was nothing to brag about. In fact, in all five Super Bowls, Brady has yet to lead his team to a score in the first quarter. 

He has trouble putting away opponents in big games. If he wasn’t bailed out by his defense, Brady could be ranked below Peyton Manning in winning the big game.  Besides his great game against Denver, Brady hasn’t played well in the playoffs since 2004-05. Maybe Brady is overrated.

CONSPIRACY THEORY

The Giants defenders seemed to get hurt at very convenient times. The Patriots were driving on three separate occasions when Giants players fell down with injuries and caused a five minute delay. While we watched a never ending preview of Battleship, the defenders rested, drank Gatorade, and regrouped. On each occasion, the defender took only ONE play off and then returned. Do I think this was done on purpose? I doubt it, but why not. It’s not illegal and it was a great way of keeping the Patriots out of rhythm and giving the Giants a chance to rest on defense. It’s just something to think about.

HAIL MARY

It is only fitting that in the “Year of Tebow” and a halftime show featuring Madonna, the game ended like a prayer. I cannot watch replays of the Hail Mary, but I’ve been told Gronkowski missed the catch by a matter of inches. If he had been healthy…but there I go again, trying to change the game in my head. It’s over and it’s time to move on.

IS IT REALLY OVER?

When you live in New York, and root for Boston, it never really ends. I watched the Super Bowl at a Boston themed Bar in NYC. The place cleared out in seconds. I shouted in anger, kicked a nearby garbage can, and then sat on a stoop in disbelief for minutes, hours, days? 

I attempted to clear my head and trudged home with my hoodie covering my head. On the walk of shame, dozens of New Yorkers tormented me. I wasn’t even wearing any colors, they could just tell I was a Patriots fan. I looked and walked like a loser. I heard: “Patriots suck!” “Brady sucks!” “You suck, douchebag!” and once in a while a “Go Giants!” I wanted to shout back, but there was nothing to say.

On Monday, I went to the Knicks game hoping basketball would take my mind off of the game. But at halftime, several New York Giants were introduced and the place went nuts. Everyone was standing, except for me. I was alone. The next day was the parade. Everywhere I looked, everyone I spoke to, it was all about the Super Bowl Champion GIANTS. Sports Illustrated greeted me at the door with the Giants on the cover.  Even the guy at my local Dominican lunch spot was speaking in Spanglish about the Giants.   

For a while, I actually wished I was from Kansas City or another dead sports town so I wouldn’t have to feel the pain of coming so close. It was the equivalent of having a devastating hangover and announcing never to drink again. But I’ll be back and so will the Patriots.  

As far as living in New York, the torment has to end soon, and what doesn’t kill me will only make me stronger. To paraphrase Frank Sinatra: “If I can take it here, I can take it anywhere.”

See you next year. Go Patriots!