Friday, February 25, 2011

Thank Goodell It's Friday!

This guy, and Falcons fans, have had little to celebrate during his career in Atlanta.

Who Will Break Out at the Combine?

Every year there is some new and wondrous talent that emerges from the NFL’s Scouting Combine who was previously ignored based on game tape alone, but the measurables (speed, strength, agility, jumping ability) that are measured in Indianapolis can cause some coaches, scouts, and GMs to lose their minds. And then that player is drafted by the Oakland Raiders, never to be heard from again.

Seriously though, it always amazes me how teams will sometimes see how a player performs running basic athletic tests in shorts and a t-shirt, and discount the voluminous amount of film on that same athlete that says he is a dud. Is it supreme arrogance by a coaching staff that say, “We can teach him, make him better… we have the scheme!” Or is it a loony owner who likes collecting really fast athletes who are poor football players?

It is incredulous that some teams lose all common sense at the Combine. What is it about Indianapolis that leads normally smart football men to chase athletic mirages running around in underwear? Is the city a black hole for rational thought? Seriously, is there some kind of crazy-inducing virus in the water?

There was more than enough film on a guy like, say, Vernon Gholston, where anyone with a modicum of common sense could observe by his play on the field that he was an athlete who played football, not a football player. Gholston took plays off, he did not always try hard, he was not a defensive leader, and he was not strong against the run. Gholston was not any of the things, did not possess the will to win, the motor that never stops, or any of the intangibles that you want to see from a guy you are going to pick at number 6, yet the Jets took him anyway, because he was/is an “athletic freak.”

The Atlanta Falcons have made mistakes like this throughout their history, most recently in the 2007 Draft with Jamaal Anderson. Anderson was a one-year wonder at Arkansas without much tape to back up his performance over a length of time. He, like Gholston, was/is an athletic freak, but he was a basketball guy who happened to play football, not a football player. The Falcons took him at number 8, passing on both Patrick Willis and Derrell Revis, all for a guy who from all accounts before the draft didn’t live football the way you need a player to do when you’re going to draft him that high and pay him the kind of money a number 8 pick makes.

Who is going to be the guy who was a dog at times on game film, who was not much of a leader in the locker room, and who doesn’t have great fundamentals, but who possesses elite speed, strong hands/legs, quick feet, and/or a great vertical that will be taken with a top-10 draft pick by an organization who desperately needs a guy like Antonio Gates or Tony Gonzalez, freakishly athletic basketball players who became outstanding NFL football stars, but winds up with a guy like Vernon Gholston, Derrius Heyward-Bey, or Jamaal Anderson? Who is going to be that guy?

Feel free to give you guesses below.

Gameday Predictions (Academy Awards Edition, Part II)

Okay, so here is Part 2 of my Academy Awards Predictions. You can find Part I here.

Best Original Screenplay Nominees:

Mike Leigh, Another Year; Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson, The Fighter; Christopher Nolan, Inception; Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg, The Kids are Alright; David Seidler, The King’s Speech.

Who Should Win:

Christopher Nolan, for Inception. This is quite honestly one of the most original screenplays written for film ever. It is imaginative, inventive, and it is able to squeeze in an incredible love note to the classic James Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, to boot. Unfortunately, The Academy seems to have it in for Nolan, who did not even garner a nominee for Best Director, which is a scandal to be sure. Maybe the voters in the Academy hate him for taking what should be simple popcorn fare (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Prestige, etc) and elevating it into true filmic art, the best of the best films made in the last ten years. Whatever the reason, that inane backlash might cost him this award, too.

Who Will Win:

David Seidler, for The King’s Speech. This is an excellent film and a top-notch screenplay. In any year in which Inception did not come out, it would be worthy of every award, including this one. I loved every part of this film, but it is not as good as Inception. It just is not. It is a shame that this perfectly wonderful film has gotten caught in the crossfire of whatever grudges the Academy has against Chris Nolan, because in 10 years it will have the same kind of stain on it that Shakespeare in Love does now.

Best Adapted Screenplay Nominees:

Danny Boyle and Simion Beaufoy, 127 Hours; Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network; Michael Arndt, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, and Lee Unkrich, Toy Story 3; Ethan and Joel Cohen, True Grit; Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini, Winter’s Bone.

Who Should Win:

The Pixar guys from Toy Story 3. As much as I admire the work Aaron Sorkin did on The Social Network, Pixar topped themselves, yet again, with Toy Story 3. The concept on paper shouldn’t work as well as it does, and people have been saying that since 1995, but somehow, guys like John Lasseter inject so much humanity and pathos into these pixilated characters. I’m always left amazed by the writing in the Pixar films (okay, not so much with A Bug’s Life or Cars). Unfortunately, voting members of the Academy never really credit the writing of brilliant animated film, instead embracing the odd idea that it’s the voice acting, not the writing, that brings humanity to drawn creations (I blame it on Robin Williams’ brilliant voice work as Genie in Aladdin), and they’re correct, to a point, but as good as Tom Hanks and Tim Allen are, they’d be nothing without the words to say.

Who Will Win:

Aaron Sorkin. Look, his work on The Social Network is exemplary, and all of the Sorkin staples are in the film: the walk and talk, overlapping dialogue, and that rapid-fire patter he does so well. Then there is also the Academy’s need to reward bad boys, addicts, et al, who have cleaned up their acts and come back better than ever. He is a worthy winner, just not the best of the year.

Best Director Nominees:

Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan; Ethan and Joel Cohen, True Grit; David Fincher, The Social Network; Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech; David O. Russell, The Fighter.

Who Should Win

Christopher Nolan for Inception. It is a crime and a damn shame that the Academy has whatever grudge they have against Chris Nolan because all the man ever does is direct the best, most original, most challenging, and most unique damn films to come out of that cesspool of original thought that is Hollywood. He was not even nominated as Best Director for Inception. That is RIDICULOUS. That film is his film; more than any of the other directors nominated, Nolan was everything for Inception. Just a disgrace. Screw the Academy.

Who Will Win:

This is a close race, usually tied to the Best Picture winner. I say usually, because sometimes, there are breaks where the Academy will recognize an outstanding director who maybe does not have the best film overall in the Best Picture race. So for this award, I am going to go with Darren Aronovsky, the director of Black Swan. Aronovsky did a masterful job directing this film, especially in pulling the kind of “alive” performance out of Natalie Portman that she rarely gives on screen. For that alone he deserves the Oscar. Of course, he is not the best director of the year, just the best director out of the nominees.

Best Picture Nominees:

127 Hours; Black Swan; The Fighter; Inception; The Kids are Alright; The King’s Speech; The Social Network; Toy Story 3; True Grit; Winter’s Bone.

Who Should Win:

This is an outstanding bunch of nominees for Best Picture, unlike last year, which was weak outside of TheHurtLocker (and no, I did not like Avatar; most overrated film since Titanic, hmm, what do they have in common?). However, there is but one “Best Film” and for 2010, that film was Inception. As much as I like many of the other films (The King’s Speech, True Grit, Black Swan, and Toy Story 3, in particular), I did not have the kind of visceral experience with those films that I had when I saw Inception for the first time. This film is seminal experience that I saw three times in the theater. If I’m going to go back to a theater, dragging friends with me who have to see this film, that many times, it’s going to get my vote.

Who Will Win:

Unfortunately, because the Academy hates Chris Nolan, I believe the second-best film of the year will win this award, and that will be The King’s Speech. This is an excellent film to be sure. It is funny in places you do not expect it to be, it is touching, and it is supremely human, delving into the fallibility of the “best” of us, men who cannot afford to be fallible, because the times they live in demand nothing but the best. This is a film elevated by its acting, more than any other on this list save maybe True Grit, and Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, and Helena Bonham Carter bring their “A” games to be sure.

If and when The King’s Speech wins Best Picture, I will not loathe the film as I do Shakespeare in Love, which stole the rightful award from Saving Private Ryan due to the Weinstein’s outright buying of the Academy’s vote. I love The King’s Speech; it is a great film deserving of recognition. It is just not the best film of the past year.

Today in History

On 25 February 2011, Cassius Clay (soon to be Muhammad Ali) shocks the world when he beats Heavyweight Champion Sonny Liston. As Clay would tell television cameras, “I shook up the world!”

The match itself has some interesting happenings. It seems as if Liston’s trainer doctored his gloves, causing Ali to partially lose his sight between the 3rd and 4th rounds. Some speculate that it may have been capsicum oil, from the seeds of hot peppers, but regardless, by the middle of the 4th, Clay’s sweat and tears had washed the substance out of his eyes, and he continued to punish Liston.

Liston refused to come out for the 7th round, and the man soon to be known as The Greatest won his first Heavyweight Title.

The Jukebox

Music is, more than clothes or hair… more than anything really, music is what helps define us as who we are. Is it true that the music of our childhood is the music we most identify with, the music we hold on to, to the point where we stop listening to anything new as we get older? Do our parents also have an equal “say” in what music we love? Or, will our own individuality assert itself in the music we hold dear?

I think there is something to all of those ideas. I was born in 1980, and I identify with and still listen to the music of the 80’s and 90’s more than any other music on my iPodTouch. I love Billy Joel, Bon Jovi, The Cars, Metallica, Billy Idol, U2, Whitney Houston, Van Halen, REM, Guns N Roses, Michael Jackson, The Beastie Boys, Nirvana, George Strait, Green Day, Garth Brooks, and Dave Matthews. The music of my early 20’s while I was still in the Marine Corps, is also something I identify with, such as Coldplay, Eminem, The White Stripes, Staind, and 3 Doors Down, because that was a rough time in my life, trying to come back from two different knee injuries 5 months apart. All of that music and those people/groups was the music of my formative years.

However, my favorite band is The Beatles, in part because The Beatles are my dad’s favorite band. I can remember listening to my dad’s Beatles' cassette tapes on drives from Georgia to New York to visit family over, and over again. To this day, I can sing almost the whole Beatles’ catalogue from memory. I love other rock bands from the 60's and 70's, and that is all because of my dad, and because of that and him, I have a greater appreciation and love for all kinds of music.

Then also, the idea that our own individual identity will assert itself, leading us to branch out into embracing music not of our time, or music our friends and family don’t listen to, is apart of what I’ve experienced. I was never exposed to what most people would call orchestral or instrumental music in any form (classical, romantic, baroque, jazz, big band swing, film scores) by family or friends, but sought that kind of music out because it was something that was in my soul, unique to me.

And it is true, that for the most part, I have stopped listening to the radio and most new music of the last five years or so. Clear Channel has basically ruined FM Radio with their focus studies and lowest common denominator play lists. I loathe the kind of inconsequential, forgettable crap like Katy Perry or Justin Beeber that is considered cool right now. I’ll pick up the new Coldplay album, or a new Metallica cd, or search iTunes for anything from The Beatles catalogue I may not have, but I largely want nothing to do with the new acts in music today. Compared to the music I grew up with, bands that really did change the landscape, like Metallica or Nirvana, it is all garbage.

And I guess that makes me old. Shoot me now.

Smart Quote

Greatness lies not in being strong, but in the using of strength.

Henry Ward Beecher

Hey, Check This Out!

Here is the trailer for Inception. I just love this film so much. And do not forget to follow me on Twitter at @UGABugKiller. Thanks!

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