February 2007 Archives

oscar rodeo: the show

Going from the Oscar Rodeo to Oscar night is like finally consummating a long-term seduction of Sting: After so much buildup, it's over in just four short hours. Here are some bonus awards from the Oscar-watching party that didn't make it to the telecast:

Best Fake Laugh: Will Smith may have earned himself a better seat for future Oscars telecasts with his consistent, active fake laughter. It didn't matter how lame a joke was, or how badly his own son was screwing up as a presenter; Will Smith was howling with laughter and slapping his knee whenever the camera cut to him. Put that man in the front row!

Smith didn't win Best Actor for his role in The Pursuit of Happyness, perhaps because the Academy didn't feel he'd reached the standard he set in this landmark episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air (fast-forward to the five-minute mark).

Worst Presenter: Jaden Christopher Syre Smith. I don't care if he's only eight. Little Miss Sunshine is only ten, and she handled her business. When Jaden tried to announce another set of nominees before actually announcing the winner from the first category, a sarcastic fan quipped, "I hope that kid can rap." OK, that fan was me.

Worst Dress: (tie) Jodie Foster, and Torill Kove, director of Best Animated Short The Danish Poet.

Worst Suit: Tom Hanks. Hanks still had his awful Da Vinci Hair.

Best Oscar Accessory: Our hosts had a button-maker, which they put to fine use turning photos of nominees into tasteful metal buttons. I wore a Ryan Gosling and Forest Whitaker (circa Fast Times at Ridgemont High). At the end, someone made a button from my old Oscar ballot that managed to include the words "Babel", "Scotland", and "scars", which neatly describes the effect that those two films had on me.

Best Original Speech: Michael Arndt, who won Best Original Screenplay for Little Miss Sunshine, made a lovely speech about his memory of a family road trip, much like the one in the film, in a van with a broken clutch, and how much it made him love his family. It was more than the best speech of the night; it was the Best Original Speech.

Best Adapted Speech: After everyone was wearing multiple buttons, we devised an ingenious rule: If you were wearing a button featuring someone who won an award, you had to stand up and give an acceptance speech, too. Of course, we only enforced this rule after Alan Arkin won Best Supporting Actor, when Eugenio was the only one rocking the Arkin button. Eugenio stood up and gave a lovely speech, inspired by Arkin's stellar work in So I Married An Axe Murderer: "You screw up one more time I'm going to kick your spaghetti bending butt back to Milan!"

Worst Followup To That Speech: Me, for following Gene's speech with Arkin's trademark line in Sunshine, "Fuck a lot of women!", while sitting five feet away from an eight-year-old girl.

Most Reassuring Information from IMDB:
"Look at Jack Nicholson."
"What happened to his hair?"
"He looks like he has cancer."
"Ha ha, seriously."
"If he really does have cancer, we are such assholes."

The Bucket List (2007): Plot Outline:
Two terminally ill men escape from a cancer ward and head off on a road trip with a wish list of to-dos before they die.


Best Handicapping Advice: I picked Recycled Life for Best Documentary Short Subject, while my friend "Pukka" insisted it would be The Blood of Yingzhou District. When Yingzhou won, she said, "Always bet on AIDS."

Most Depressing Introduction: It was sad when Oscar thought that Cameron Diaz's most notable film credit was voicing Princess Fiona in the Shrek movies. It was sadder when Ben Affleck came out to present, and we were reminded that he's won an Academy Award.

Most Depressing Person: Backstage interviewer Chris Connelly. It was as if Matthew Broderick's character from Election had been dispatched to stand backstage and awkwardly bother celebrities. I half-expected him to get stung in the eye by a bee or try to wash his balls in a water fountain.

Best Conspiracy Theory: Best Supporting Actress and Best Documentary Feature were presented over an hour later than they were in the past two years. Clearly, that's because organizers knew Jennifer Hudson and Al Gore had the awards locked up, so they shuffled the order to keep the American Idol/C-SPAN audience tuned in as long as possible.

Most Applauded Dead Star: Robert Altman. The next-highest applause went to Peter Boyle, followed by Don Knotts, James Doohan, and Jack Warden. Rough year for the cast of While You Were Sleeping, and that's without even considering The Lake House. Bruno Kirby would have had more applause, but unfortunately, he led off the montage. It's just like how Olympic figure skating judges always leave room for the scores to go up after the first skater.

Biggest Cry: Forest Whitaker's wife, Keisha. The winners were unusually tear-free at the podium.

Special Achievement in Oscar Party Catering: The hosts provided a baked potato bar, a make-your-own-taco bar, and even an elaborate sundae bar, for dessert. They both deserved Oscars in the field of deliciography.

keane-coached athlete makes good

There's a nice feature in the Chronicle today about Stanford center Jayne Appel, who is the first kid I used to babysit to become a contender for Pac-10 Freshman of the Year. For many years, she swam on a team I coached, excelling in backstroke and winning a Coach's award for her hard work and positive attitude. I think it's clear that Appel's success on the basketball court is a direct result of rhyming cheers, intense games of Marco Polo, and of course, washing Coach Sean's car.

Perhaps Appel's most significant accomplishment is, in my solipsistic world view, making me root for Stanford for the first time in my life. Even after decades of parental anti-Palo-Alto brainwashing, I still have no problem pulling for the Stanford women in hoops, a clear sign that Jayne is a special kid. She's only going to get better once she starts earning the respect of the officials. I suggest she begin holding her nose and quacking like a penguin and perhaps doing more cannonballs.

So when you're filling out your brackets for the Women's NCAA Tournament in a few weeks, don't overlook the Lady Cardinal, particularly if any of the tournament games are held in 4-7 feet of water.

a very sad e-card

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This is one of the saddest e-cards I have ever seen. I think it's the elephant's nervous leg motion that makes it so heartbreaking. Nevertheless, I plan to incorporate "hurtbye" into my daily vernacular.

What's truly distressing is that if this elephant is truly experiencing a "hurtbye", he's never, ever going to forget that hurt.

Thanks to Toby Muriesanu and The Wu for the heads up.

oscar rodeo: letters from iwo jima

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We soldiers dig. We dig all day. This is the hole that we will fight and die in. Am I digging my own grave?

While step onning the society it before, embrace the ambition life ambition.

The first quote above is from the Memorable Quotes section of IMDB for Letters From Iwo Jima. The second is from my copy of Letters From Iwo Jima, which appears to have been subtitled in Engrish. Nevertheless, we're only a few hours from the ceremony, so I shall press on. Such are the perils of a life of piracy. I wonder if the pirates of old ever had this problem - abduct a nubile young wench, only to learn she only spoke Flemish. It's not the strongest way to finish up the Oscar Rodeo, but it will have to do.

Nominations: Four - Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, and Sound Editing.

Plot Summary: This is the companion piece to Flags of Our Fathers, the front runner for the Sound Editing and Effects awards. Flags told the story of Iwo Jima from the American side, while Letters shows the Japanese side of the battle.

Title of the porn version: Over Salty To Be Water Vagina

Strengths: Ken Watanabe. Interesting use of color, subtle storytelling technique. The structure of the story, with the letters, is fairly brilliant, even if the contents appear to be nonsense word salads. "I would certainly make an effort the report"? Come on, Iwo Jima!

Weaknesses: Japanese military positioning, inability to communicate. Seriously, "Stand the behind to looking at"? No wonder they lost the war.

Drug use: The subtitlers appear to be struggling with a Gosling-sized crack problem.

Physical or mental impairments: Subtitlers, again. As a side note, this has been a remarkably able-bodied field of acting nominees this year across the board.

Portrayals of real people: Everyone plays a real person.

Cute children: None.

Physical transformations: Only that which was caused by mortar shells.

Does a man cry?: They'd commit seppuku first!

Running time: 106 minutes.

Feels like: Look, I gave up after thirty minutes because of the Engrish. I'll see a legitimate version after the Oscars, but it's not winning any awards. I'm not missing out on any handicapping.

Prediction: No Oscars.

Deserves: To be continued...

The second-to-last contender in the Oscar Rodeo is The Last King of Scotland, starring 2007 Best Actor winner Forest Whitaker.

I'm glad he's going to win, because I have always liked Whitaker, ever since I saw The Crying Game back when I was 12. My dad offered to take me to three of the five Best Picture nominees, and to my mother's horror, I chose The Crying Game. Afterward, I was surprised that Jaye Davidson had received the Oscar nomination for that film, and not Whitaker. Later, I enjoyed his work in Fast Times At Ridgemont High, Smoke, and Ghost Dog. He directs movies, he sings opera, and he's a black belt in karate.

Aside from his performance, here are some things that Whitaker did to prepare for his role that had Oscar swooning. He gained fifty pounds. He learned Swahili. He taught himself to play the accordion. He never broke character during the entire shoot, so as not to lose his carefully honed accent. After he arrived in Uganda, he refused to associate with anyone but the African extras. Basically, this is insane behavior, but it's why Oscar is CRAZY for Whitaker this year.

While Whitaker was amazing, I didn't like this film much overall. Whenever Idi Amin was on screen, the movie was captivating. Unfortunately, the main character is a Scottish doctor, and he's a huge asshole. The final 40% of the movie concerns his attempted escape from Uganda, but it's hard to root for him. He doesn't have a clever plan, and he really only wants to flee out of an instinct for self-preservation. I think Whitaker is so good, the movie is still worth seeing, but maybe don't bother to do so in the theater.

Side note for Bin Lloyden: Amin assures the Scotsman that in Uganda, they find red hair "quite disgusting."

oscar rodeo: the devil wears prada

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The Devil Wears Prada, which is perfectly acceptable attire for an Oscar Rodeo. Hell, the devil's invited. The more the merrier. This film is up for best Costume Design and Best Actress. Normally, the sheer number of outfits presented in the film would seem to make Oscar take notice, but the costume award rarely goes to a contemporary film.

Meryl Streep reminded me of Helen Mirren in The Queen in how she dominated every scene she was in, yet showed occasional vulnerability. In another year, this could have been an Oscar-winning performance, but no one is beating HMQEII tonight. I think Streep's Oscar clip will be her devastating analysis of Anne Hathaway's "bargain-basement" sweater, tracking the chain of fashion event that led her to that particular cerulean blue garment. The only bad thing about Streep's performance is that she makes Anne Hathaway's outside life, and especially her boyfriend, look inferior by comparison.

I was not the target audience for this film. I enjoyed Stanley Tucci, but I couldn't judge the relative fabulousness of the clothing at all, which may have detracted from my enjoyment of it. It's kind of like Pretty Woman or your generic inspirational sports movie, except with high fashion instead of blowjobs or youth hockey. Maybe some ambitious filmmaker will combine all three, where a hooker with a heart of gold motivates a ragtag intermural basketball team from the fashion institute via pep talks and handjobs, and wins a bet for a closet full of couture clothing after they win the big game against some snooty, sassy tailors. They can call it: Best Picture 2008.

oscar rodeo: half nelson

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What could be more depressing than a film about the inner-city public school system? How about a film about a crack-addicted teacher in said system, who befriends a lonely student after she catches him freebasing in the girls' locker room. In addition, the lonely student's only father figure is a crack dealer. Welcome to the world of Half Nelson, a film more draining than working your way through the entire Oscar Rodeo.

While the film is amazingly depressing, it is also quite good. Notable local film critic Jason Shamai had Half Nelson as his #3 film of the year. It's very brutal, but the characters are quite realistic: the teacher reading newspaper stories aloud in the break room, Gosling's rehabilitated ex-girlfriend, even his boozy parents. We don't see Gosling descend into addiction; he's an addict, he's been an addict for a long time, and there's no cute or glamorous story about how he got addicted in the first place.

Some of the scenes of his freebase binges are quite funny, especially the one where he manically rants about people who still believe that there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. My favorite scene was when Gosling warns the crack dealer to stay away from his student, but can barely believe his own ranting. In the end, it's like watching a car wreck in slow motion, with the only mystery being the extent of the damage when it's all done with.

There are some parallels to The Pursuit of Happyness, in that the central relationship is between an adult and a child, who bond via schoolwork and telling each other terrible jokes. Shareeka Epps is wonderful as the lonely student, and I can't wait to see what she does next in her career, which apparently will continue with Alien vs. Predator: AVP2.

I'd vote for Gosling for Best Actor, but Forest Whitaker is going to win that award. I haven't done the research to be sure, but I hypothesize that this is the greatest performance to date by an alumnus of The Mickey Mouse Club. However, I haven't seen Crossroads, so I'll hold off on making a definitive claim.

oscar rodeo: venus

You're never to old for a Rodeo. That's part of the reason Peter O'Toole is so delightful in Venus, the story of an aging British actor who becomes infatuated by a beautiful young woman. The movie centers around Peter O'Toole hanging out with other old British men, who drink heavily and rip on each other constantly, while still looking after one another. The interactions are both endearing and hilarious. O'Toole delivers on every punchline, but putting the lines in print doesn't do them justice. He combines lecherousness and impotence in a manner you rarely see on the silver screen.

There are nice performances from newcomer Jodie Whittaker and oldtimer Richard Griffiths, though he doesn't quite reach the level of his classic dual role in The Naked Gun 2 1/2.

This film is compact and insubstantial, and occasionally boring. After watching so many Oscar nominees recently, a small story is welcome. Mainly, this film is perfect for my mom, since it has:

1. British accents
2. Adorable old men
3. A soundtrack provided by her new favorite artist, Corinne Bailey Rae.

O'Toole is nominated for Best Actor, an award he has never won and will certainly not win this year. I'm sure that he'll be fine with that as long as he has a well-mixed drink. The ability to mix drinks, once acquired, is a talent that will serve you for life.

oscar rodeo: the pursuit of happyness

Will Smith wouldn't kill nobody in none of his rodeos, and he wouldn't use no profanity in none of his rodeos. But this is Zembla's goldurned Oscar Rodeo, so we'll use whatever language we darn tootin' want to.

The Pursuit of Happyness got one Oscar nod, for Will Smith's performance. He plays Chris Gardner, a struggling medical equipment entrepreneur who applies for an internship program at Dean Witter. Soon after that, his wife leaves him, the police arrest him and impound his car for unpaid parking tickets, he gets evicted, and eventually becomes homeless, all while caring for his five-year-old son. Will's son is played by his real-life son, Jaden. According to our introductory titles, this film was "inspired by a true story". Which means, "mostly made up".

I've been keeping track of this film for a long time, ever since the filmmakers built a fake BART station near my house. How did it match my predictions?

1. Smith doesn't actually live in a BART station; he only sleeps there one night.
2. Smith does not sing; not on screen, not on the soundtrack.
3. At no point does he punch an alien in the face and then yell, "Ain't no excursion on this fare!"

I found myself watching for San Francisco landmarks or people I recognized. Berkeley legend Larry the Drummer makes two appearances, playing his trademark plastic buckets. The film is set in 1981, so old cars and retro clothing abound. There are a lot of scenes that take place in a BART station or on a BART train. The ads are changed, but the car interiors are left untouched, probably because today's BART trains still have their carpets from 1981.

I would estimate that 15-20% of the scenes in this movie somehow involve BART. Knowing that, do you think there's a scene where the train doors narrowly close on someone's hand? How about a scene where a guy leaps the turnstiles without paying? Finally, do you think there's a scene where someone narrowly escapes a pursuer by hopping on a BART train that's about to leave? Yes, yes, and yes, though that third one is implausible. When's the last time you didn't have to wait at least seven minutes for a BART train?

Smith initially looks like a threat to Djimon Hounsou in the "my son" derby, though he ultimately doesn't come close. One key is that Smith begins yelling "my son" BEFORE his son is taken away. Make a note of that, fictional black fathers. An ounce of prevention if worth a pound of "My son!"

Smith is on screen constantly. He's in nearly every single scene, and if that weren't enough, he also narrates the film. Not only is he constantly on screen, he's constantly running. He runs to make his appointments, to catch buses, to get to the homeless shelter, to catch a hippy who stole his bone density scanner, to escape an angry cabbie, to pursue a homeless man who stole his bone density scanner, to catch a BART train, and to jaywalk so he can be awesomely hit by a car. That was 3 1/2 Pitts out of 5 on the Meet Joe Black Hit-By-Car scale. Seriously, over 50% of this movie is Will Smith running or riding public transit through fake 1981 San Francisco. I do wish we'd seen more of his non-commuting life.

This is probably a deserved Best Actor nomination. Smith is alternately charming, angry, desperate, and loving, and he sold me on it. I particularly enjoyed the scenes where he talks to his son about school, though he is cheating a little bit by casting his real son. I could relate to Smith's character, and not only because he's stymied by parking tickets and public transportation. The one thing that was lacking was complexity; this was clearly Chris Gardner's story, and as such, we don't see a lot of negative things about Chris Gardner. I believe Will Smith is eventually going to win an Academy Award, but I have a feeling he's going to do so by playing a villain.

oscar rodeo: little children

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Blah blah Oscar RodeoLittle Children got three nominations. One for Adapated Screenplay, a Best Actress nod for Kate Winslet, and a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Jackie Earl Haley. It's not winning any of them. The movie is well-made, and obviously made by smart people

The film is about a suburban community...with secrets! As with any film or television show about the darkness hidden at the end of the cul-de-sac, Little Children has a lot of ironic narration. It's also adapted from a novel, which means twice the narration, and bonus irony. They make no attempt to identify the narrator, so I assumed it was the Holy Ghost telling us everyone's feelings.

Moms have identical strollers in this community. Married couples don't have sex with each other. Secret adultery abounds. People are paranoid about safety. Jim Carrey's best friend from The Truman Show is implausibly obsessed with a sex offender. American Beauty was awesome. Desperate Housewives will return next Sunday night.

I wouldn't mind so much if characters were more realistic, or if the movie was funnier. The touch football scenes, with double-ironic mock-NFL Films play-by-play, felt flat to me. Jackie Earle Haley was good as the sex offender, but I don't think he would have gotten his nomination if he hadn't dropped out of sight after Bad News Bears. The scene where he violates his parole and visits the community pool is a good mix of creepiness and vulnerability. When he got in the pool, my first thought was, "He's snorkeling for Oscar!"

Kate Winslet is very believable and enjoyable, but Kate Winslet is always good. Little Children marks her fifth Oscar nomination, but more importantly, it shows that Winslet has passed Charlize Theron as the mainstream actress most willing to take her clothes off on screen. I feel compelled to mention that the sex scenes in this movie are appropriately hot.

Other things I liked: The art direction, the little kid actors, that a movie depicted parents who resent their adorable small children.

Hated: the moms that weren't Kate Winslet, the rageaholic ex-cop, the skateboarding subplot, and the 130-minute running time.

oscar rodeo: blood diamond

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Blood Diamond got five nominations, but two were for Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. That means it's getting the Oscar Rodeo equivalent of eight seconds in the ring.

The movie opens with a series of titles explaining civil war and the diamond trade in Sierra Leone, so you know this is going to be an Important Film. The titles continue so long, I half-expected them to segue into, "Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base..."

Djimon Hounsou is a fisherman who gets separated from his family when rebels attack his village in Sierra Leone. Captured by rebels, he finds and huge diamond and manages to conceal it. A South African mercenary and diamond smuggler, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, partners with him uneasily, in hopes of retrieving the stone. Meanwhile, Jennifer Connelly is writing a news story about blood diamonds, and Hounsou's young son gets kidnapped into a rebel militia.

For a message movie, Blood Diamond is surprisingly entertaining. Its desire to expose the evils of the diamond trade and show the world of child slavery perhaps make the movie overlong, but the movie is never ponderous. However, many of the military battles aren't compelling. When rebel forces (full of children) fight army troops, our heroes primarily run for cover. The audience doesn't know who's fighting most of the time, and as such, we have no rooting interest.

I think Leo is really good in this movie. He's like a cross between John Rambo, Indiana Jones, and Tom Shane. Leo's accent is questionable, but I think he primarily has trouble with the letter "r". When he has to spell his name, "Danny Archer", the accent slips noticeably. However, he is very convincing firing a gun, and he's fun to watch, even while approximately 5200 bullets are fired at him over the course of the movie, along with 9-10 rockets.

The filmmakers not only go after fake DeBeers (Van de Kaap), they take shots at American women. Connelly insists that "not all American girls want a storybook wedding", and in another scene scoffs that American men have to spend three months' salary for these evil goods. Yet another character insists, "People back home wouldn't buy a ring if they knew." You hear that, ladies?

Djimon Hounsou got a nomination for demanding the location and return of his son more forcefully than anyone since Harold Perrineau in the second season of Lost, maybe since Mel Gibson in Ransom.

The end titles reassure us that Sierra Leone is not at peace. Then, after the whole plot revolved various methods of smuggling conflict diamonds to make them undetectable, the end titles inform us that, ultimately, avoiding blood diamonds is "up to the consumer". You hear that, ladies?

Blood Diamond is going to win zero Oscars, but I'm curious to see what effect, if any, it has on the jewelry on display at the awards. I'm guessing, no effect whatsoever.

Here is a terrible line: "In America, it's bling bling. But out here it's bling bang."

oscar rodeo: little miss sunshine

There's no broncs nor blood nor steers nor mud, but we still call this thing an Oscar Rodeo. Next we have the indie sensation, Little Miss Sunshine, a movie that simultaneously evokes As I Lay Dying, The Grapes of Wrath, and Don't Sweat the Small Stuff.

Nominations: Four. Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Alan Arkin), Best Supporting Actress (Abigail Breslin).

Plot Summary: Greg Kinnear is a struggling motivational speaker. His homosexual brother-in-law, Steve Carrell, comes to stay with the family after attempting suicide. His son has taken a vow of silence, his father was botted from his retirement community for snorting heroin, his daughter Olive is obsessed with beauty pageants, and his wife is pretty normal, aside from her secret smoking. When Olive qualifies for the Little Miss Sunshine pageant in California, the family decides to hit the road.

Title of the porn version: Barely Legal Miss Sunshine

Strengths: Excellent ensemble cast. The yellow van is possibly the funniest cinematic vehicle of all time, thanks to the relay-style pushing the van into gear, and the unstoppable horn. There's a satisfying ending, the characters ring true, and it's funny throughout.

Weaknesses: Kinnear seems awkward and somewhat false at the beginning of the film. Steve Carrell is maybe a little too quick to bounce back from his suicide attempt.

Drug use: Grandpa does a lot of heroin.

Physical or mental impairments: Just color-blindness.

Portrayals of real people: Nope.

Cute children: Not only is there an adorable child, but they counter it with pageant contestants so artificially cute that they are completely horrifying, thus making the primary cute kid even cuter by contrast.

Physical transformations: Steve Carrell grows a beard. Abigail Breslin wears a fat suit. (Really!)

Does a man cry?: I don't remember for sure, but I think both Kinnear and son shed tears.

Box office: $60 million against a budget of $8 million

Running time: 101 minutes.

Feels like: 105 minutes.

Eerie similarity to the author's own family: I saw this movie with my sister Molly, and we both saw parallels to our own lives. The Keane family drove a highly-unreliable VW van throughout my childhood. We never had to push it, but the sliding door was broken for years, and we had to climb in through the shotgun seat. Also, my parents decided on a sun roof instead of an air conditioner. That meant our summer choices were to swelter in the back or endure the mini-tornados caused by opening the roof. Until the handle for the sunroof broke off, that is.

Greg Kinnear dresses like my father. The son constantly writes in a pocket-sized notebook, just like I do. I also wore a Nietzsche t-shirt in high school, and dressed as if I was color-blind. At various times in their lives, each of my sisters has dressed a lot like Olive. Megan had the same glasses. Also, both of my grandfathers were kicked out of their retirement homes for snorting heroin and later went on to choreograph dance routines for ten-year-old beauty pageanteers.

Favorite scene: When the family accidentally abandons Olive at a gas station, then has to go back and pick her up, without stopping the van, my sister and I were laughing so hard we could barely breathe.

Least-favorite scene: I think this is the fifth or sixth movie I've seen where someone gets pulled over by a state trooper, and the big twist is, that state trooper is a huge pervert! That being said, the constantly-blaring car horn is the real star of that scene.

Overall theme: Sure, there is a lovely message about the importance of family, the awfulness of beauty pageants, and the value of a nine-step personal improvement plan, but it all comes down to this one crucial message: Fuck a lot of women. Not just one. A lot of women.

Irony: A movie about the horrors of making little girls compete in superficial talent competitions has led to a little girl's nomination for Best Supporting Actress, and subsequent participation in a superficial talent competition. It will all be worth it if Breslin wins, and the orchestra plays "Super Freak" as she goes up to accept the award.

Prediction: Best Original Screenplay is often the consolation prize for the best indie movie of the year, that doesn't win Best Picture. As such, I think Sunshine will take this one for its only win. I think it's probably the #2 candidate for Best Picture, but it's a bad sign when the director doesn't get nominated. Alan Arkin has about a 30% shot at stealing the Oscar away from Eddie Murphy. Ultimately, I think the film will take home only one Oscar.

Deserves: Best Picture, Original Screenplay.

oscar rodeo: the queen


Here at Zembla, we get around. As Tupac might say, the Oscar Rodeo don't stop for hos. Well, except for one ho in particular: Dame Helen Mirren and her tower of power performance in Stephen Frears's The Queen. Some people might call it a tour de force, but after seeing this film, I have to much respect for the English, and English, to use a French phrase to describe her effort.

Nominations: Best Picture, Director, Score, Original Screenplay, Costume Design, and Best Actress (Mirren).

Plot Summary: Tony Blair becomes Prime Minister in the same week that Diana, Princess of Wales dies in a car accident in France. The royal family remains on vacation while Tony Blair tries to keep the public from hating them. Princes Philip and Charles go deerstalking and act like asses, Blair's assistant reads news headlines in a sarcastic voice, and Queen Elizabeth intimidates everyone she encounters, except for her omnipresent fleet of dogs. Eventually, the royals return to London, they fly the Union Jack at half mast above Buckingham Palace, and Queen Elizabeth gets flowers from a little girl.

Title of the porn version: The Queef

Strengths: Helen Mirren. She becomes Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II completely, or perhaps Mirren herself simply displays her existing royal bearing in the service of the film. I like to think that Mirren's daily life is like what happens in the movie; walking everywhere surrounded by a swarm of dogs, reducing men to nervous stammering in her presence, sure in her belief that God put her where she is.

The Queen tells a compact story, rare among this year's Best Picture nominees. It's funny as well as moving. Fake Tony Blair is excellent, James Cromwell is appropriately obnoxious, and the use of news footage works well. The whole thing is quite realistic.

Weaknesses: There's not a lot of action. If you despise the monarchy, this film could feel inconsequential.

Drug use: None.

Physical or mental impairments: Prince Philip, to a degree.

Portrayals of real people: All of the principal characters are fictionalized versions of real people, including Tony Blair's aides.

Cute children: Prince William, hubba hubba.

Physical transformations: Mirren dials down her usual gorgeousness very slightly for this role, though thankfully not at awards shows.

Does a man cry?: None of the principal characters do, but there are weeping men in the news footage.

Box office: $49 million, plus £6,822,830 and 900,000 Euros.

Running time: 97 minutes.

Feels like: 97 minutes.

Favorite character: Tony Blair's aide, Alastair Campbell. In real life, Campbell has made headlines for his foul language and his role in the "sexing up" of WMD information. In the movie, Campbell writes notes on a tiny piece of paper, reads newspaper headlines out loud, and says everything in a sarcastic voice. In other words, Campbell acts a lot like me. I've also been accused of "sexing up" information to try and drum up support for an invasion of sorts, but I'd rather not get into it on a family blog.

Favorite scene: When the queen goes on television to address the people of England.

Least-favorite scene: Sometimes the Princess Di clips seemed to go on too long. Though I understood its dramatic necessity, it was still sad for me when Blair reprimanded Campbell for his dissing of the queen.

Most novel HMQEII personality quirk: Her WW2-era thriftiness.

England's 9/11: The news footgae shows the British people with a fanatical response to Di's passing, possibly provoked further by the royals' poor response to the tragedy. In America, the insanity seemed to manifest itself in purchases of commemorative Beanie Babies and Elton John maxi-singles. Until I saw the film I was unaware that there was controversy in the royal family's reaction to the death, as in America, the brunt of the criticism went toward the paparazzi. England's reaction was still insane.

Overall theme: Queens are people, too. Better people than you, to be sure, but still people.

Prediction: Helen Mirren for Best Actress is one of the biggest locks in Oscar history. I think it might also win Best Score, for a total of two.

Deserves: Those same two, plus I'd pick director Stephen Frears.

(Edited 2/25/07)

oscar rodeo: the departed


Grab some popcorn and a ten-gallon hat, because this Oscar Rodeo is kicking into high gear. Next up is Martin Scorsese's tale of cops and robbers in South Boston.

Nominations: 5 total. Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Editing, and Best Supporting Actor (for Marky Mark).

Plot Summary: Leonardo DiCaprio is a police mole on Jack Nicholson's Irish mob, while Matt Damon is Nicholson's mole in the police department. DiCaprio and Damon start looking for each other, Nicholson makes up a lot of his own dialogue, and Alec Baldwin and Mark Wahlberg dominate every scene they're a part of. Many people get shot in the head.

Plot Summary from Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch:
Jack Nicholson became another victim of homicide
Because he chose to walk - on the Wildside

Title of the porn version: The Deflowered

Strengths: It's a Scorsese movie about gangsters. The Memorable Quotes page at IMDB is massive. The movie is rarely boring, the acting is good across the board, and the movie features the best use of the Dropkick Murphys since the 2004 Red Sox season. While I have reservations about the devoted partnership between Scorsese and DiCaprio, the end result is a huge increase in the number of big-budget sprawling films about Irish people. Also, there are a few stunning shot-in-the-head scenes.

Weaknesses: DiCaprio is not completely convincing as tough guy, or a resident of South Boston. I got the impression that Nicholson was improvising a lot, and as usual in a movie, it probably would have been better if they decided on the dialogue in advance. I wish there'd been more about how Damon disguises the constant stream of information he feeds to Nicholson about police movements, because it looks like he would be easily discovered. The ending strains plausibility because it requires such amazing sloppiness from Damon.

Drug use: Nicholson both sells and uses a ton of cocaine. DiCaprio is addicted to painkillers, and I'm not exactly sure where that came from. His hand injury earlier in the movie, I guess? I suspect the Vicodin addiction came from the filmmakers' need to make his character more complex.

Physical or mental impairments: None, although Marky Mark thinks the majority of the police deparment is fuckin retahded.

Portrayals of real people: None.

Cute children: No kids except the child version of Matt Damon.

Physical transformations: Nicholson has crazy long hair, but I get the feeling he looks like that in his daily life. It's likely that Jack Nicholson is a really gross guy. I wouldn't be surprised if Nicholson is wearing his own clothes, writing his own lines, and even providing his own rubber dildos for this film. More on that later.

Does a man cry?: If so, only because he's been shot.

Box office: $129 million versus a budget of $90 million.

Running time: 151 minutes.

Feels like: 146 minutes.

Favorite scene: There are so many great Wahlberg moments in this film, but I think my favorite one comes when Baldwin introduces him to the police task force:

Baldwin: Go fuck yourself.
Wahlberg: I'm tired from fucking your wife.
Baldwin: How is your mother?
Wahlberg: Good, she's tired from fucking my father.

Least-favorite scene: DiCaprio secretly follows Nicholson to his meeting with Damon at an adult movie theater. This scene should be extremely tense, but it's ruined when Nicholson surprises Damon by lunging into him with a rubber dildo strapped to his crotch, and then laughs at Damon's surprise. It's not funny, it's weird, and it's sort of gross. It also ruins the tension of the scene, since waving around a rubber dildo destroys the secrecy of the proceedings.

The DiCaprio Counundrum: I don't think DiCaprio is a bad actor, but in this movie, he's miscast. He doesn't convince me as a tough guy, and his accents suck. This was true for Gangs of New York, and it's true again for The Departed. I also get bored watching him. Is this because I only see him in three-hour epic Scorsese Oscar-bait dramas? Maybe.

In case you're wondering, his dialect work doesn't improve much with Blood Diamond.

A Mark Wahlberg quote, just for the hell of it: "You may play a tough guy for your gangster friends, but you don't get nothing past me, you lace-curtain Irish fucking pussy."

And one more: "Blow me. Not literally, though, unfortunately there's no promotion involved."

Overall theme: There's a lot about loyalty, and keeping one's identity while pretending be someone else, but ultimately, this is an art film about being shot in the head.

Prediction: Martin Scorsese is a lock. I also think it will win for Editing, and Adapted Screenplay. Best Picture is a total crapshoot this year, but The Departed still has to be considered the favorite. Little Miss Sunshine might take it, but I think The Departed will ultimately finish with four Oscars.

Deserves: I would vote for Wahlberg, Scorsese, and Editor Theresa Schoonmaker (not that I know editing) for a total of three two Oscars.

(Edit, 2/25/07: Changed my mind about who deserves Best Director. Scorsese deserves a time machine Oscar for Taxi Driver or Goodfellas, but The Queen is simply a better movie than The Departed. If it was Best Director Of Gunshots To the Head, I would vote Marty with no hesitation.)

oscar rodeo: babel

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Zembla's Oscar Rodeo continues with Babel, Alejandro González Iñárritu's tale of estranged marriages, goat herders with shotguns, chicken-slaying drunkards, desert survivalism, and exhibitionist Japanese mutes. I wish the film were as exciting as that previous sentence implies. I discussed Babel last month, but the Oscar Rodeo demands a closer look.

Nominations: 7 total. Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Score, Editing, and two for Best Supporting Actress (Rinko Kikuchi and Adriana Barraza).

Plot Summary: After their father buys a shotgun to protect his goats from wolves, two Moroccan boys shoot Cate Blanchett from long range, as she's riding in a bus with Brad Pitt. While evil British tourists bitch at him and government troops hunt for the shooters, Pitt tries to get her medical treatment. Meanwhile, Pitt's kids go to Mexico for their nanny's son's wedding. On the way home, chaos ensues. In a totally unrelated third story, a deaf Japanese girl looks for love and mourns her mother's death.

Title of the porn version: Boobel

Strengths: The movie looks pretty. Almost all of the acting is strong, especially in the Mexico portion of the story.

Weaknesses: Not a lot happens and what does happen takes place very slowly. The Japanese portion of the film is so tenuously connected to the rest of the film, it is hard to give it the same weight. This movie is simply not very entertaining.

Drug use: Cate Blanchett smokes out with the village doctor to ease her shoulder pain. The Mexicans drink a lot at the wedding. Way to defy stereotypes, filmmakers.

Physical or mental impairments: The Japanese girl is deaf. Blanchett's shoulder bleeds a lot.

Portrayals of real people: None. Officially, the movie is not inspired by real events. Before the credits, we see that the film was "based on an idea" by the director and screenwriter, maybe so audiences don't think Brad Pitt made the whole thing up.

Cute children: Pitt and Blanchett's kids are pretty cute. I didn't think the Moroccan kids were quite as adorable, though perhaps I'm displaying the same kind of cultural biases that doom so many characters in this film. Señor Iñárritu, you have stared into my soul once again.

Physical transformations: Brad Pitt looks older than he ever has on screen in the past, but I think it's due to old man makeup. And a beard. Oscar likes it when actors grow facial hair. It can make a lightweight actor seem more serious (see Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting) or a normally serious actor appear more comedic (see Kevin Kline in A Fish Called Wanda).

Someone should remake Face/Off with Williams as the serious cop and Kline as the wisecracking bad guy. Then, after they switch bodies, both shave their beards to indicate the personality changes. Interested movie producers, please leave contact information in the comments.

Does a man cry?: Yes. There's some crying from men who are injured or scared, which doesn't exactly count. However, Pitt has a good man cry on the phone in the hospital. As he manfully sobs, there's an indistinct announcement in the background. I like to think it said, "Paging Dr. Oscar!"

Box Office: $30 million, against a budget of $25 million.

Running time: 142 minutes.

Feels like: 213 minutes.

Favorite scene: Obviously, I liked any scene that began with the deaf girls high-fiving one another, but I also enjoyed the whole sequence at the wedding in Mexico. In particular, when the kids chase chickens around, just before Gael García Bernal's casually kills one for dinner, the gringo children's reaction is priceless. If that hadn't been followed by an implausible snowball of horrific events for everyone concerned, I would have ahd a far more positive opinion of Babel.

Least-favorite scene: Blanchett has to pee, but she's injured and can barely move. Naturally, Pitt helps lift her so she can use a bedpan. And then they start making out while she urinates.

Best Editing: The leading contenders for Best Editing are Babel and The Departed, films that are 131 minutes and 151 minutes long, respectively. I know editing involves much more than simply cutting extraneous footage, but I still think that's funny. This might end up a common theme in the Oscar Rodeo, but I feel that Babel should be at least half an hour shorter, considering how much plot there is. I wish I could have gone into the editing room with my very own Wrap It Up Box.

Overall theme: The film concerns people's inability to communicate with one another, hence the title, and the multiple languages used throughout. That theme is fairly trite. Previously, I've written that the main themes were:

1. British tourists are bastards.
2. So is the Border Patrol.
3. Deaf Japanese girls are prone to act out in an inappropriate sexual manner.
4. Hey, remember 21 Grams?

Firearms lead to tragedy in each of the separate stories in Babel, but I think the true message might be, "Bad things happen to you when you leave the United States."

Prediction: Babel shared the award from the American Cinema Editors with The Departed. I think having two editors will work against it, and Babel will win only Best Score.

Deserves: I don't have an opinion on Best Score, but I would vote for Adriana Barraza as Best Supporting Actress for playing the nanny. So, one, possibly two.

oscar rodeo: dreamgirls


Here at Zembla, we've got Oscar fever, and the only prescription is more movies. As we approach Sunday night's Academy Awards telecast, Zembla wants to bring you cutting edge analysis of all of the nominated films. Admittedly, we're less than 96 hours away from the ceremony, and there are a lot of films still unseen, but just like Gael Garcia Bernal's character in Babel, nothing's gonna stop us. Not the INS, not pissed-off border guards, and certainly not logic.

First up is Dreamgirls, the story of the fake Supremes and the fake James Brown and their manager, the fake Berry Gordy.

Nominations: 8 total. Best Supporting Actor (Eddie Murphy), Best Supporting Actress (Jennifer Hudson), Art Direction, Costume Design, Sound Mixing, and three for Best Song ("Listen", "Patience", and "Love You I Do").

Plot Summary: The Dreams - Jennifer Hudson, Beyonce, and What's Her Face - get their big break when Jamie Foxx hooks them up with fake James Brown, played by Eddie Murphy. Jennifer Hudson sleeps with Jamie Foxx and gets kicked out of the band for offscreen alcoholism, truancy, and being a lot fatter than Beyonce. She is replaced by So and So. After Beyonce starts sleeping with Jamie Foxx (also offscreen), the group becomes really popular. Later, Eddie Murphy turns into Lionel Richie and dies of an overdose. Do you think the Dreams reunite at the end?

Title of the porn version: Creamgirls

Strengths: Jennifer Hudson's singing, Beyonce's singing, Eddie Murphy, sparkly costumes, any scene where people are signing on stage.

Weaknesses: Jennifer Hudson's dancing, Beyonce's acting, Jamie Foxx's presence, any scene where people are singing to each other like it's a conversation, character development, number of characters, the boring final hour that nearly made me walk out before it was over.

Drug use: Hudson is supposedly a drunk. Eddie does cocaine.

Physical or mental impairments: None, except maybe the person who wrote "Patience".

Portrayals of real people: Most characters are based on real Motown legends, but no one plays a specific real person. The fake Jackson Five is pretty great.

Cute children: One child, marginally cute.

Physical transformations: Beyonce lost 20 pounds for her role, but she said, "I wish I could have gained 20 pounds and played Effie." In other words, "Enjoy your Oscar, fatty."

Does a man cry?: Yes.

Box Office: $93 million, against a budget of $70 million.

Running time: 131 minutes.

Feels like: 160 minutes.

Favorite scene: The one where Murphy teaches the Dreams their first song, and it segues into the stage performance of same.

Least-favorite scene: Any of the musical numbers where one character sings to another, offstage. It's awkward that the first songs take place as real Dreams songs, whereas some songs are just people talking to each other, even though later the Dreams will still perform them, Invariably, the addressee stands wordlessly in place for the length of the song, while the camera swoops around trying desperately to create some action. Jamie Foxx has to do this on a few different songs, and thus come up with fifteen minutes worth of different "listening" faces.

Eddie: Eddie Murphy is the favorite for Best Supporting Actor, because Oscar loves it when comedians prove they can be unfunny. He's not bad, but he's a lot better in other movies. In some of those movies, he gives more than one performance that's better than this one (Nutty Professor, Bowfinger, Coming to America Dreamgirls). Of course, he doesn't cry, sing, or do cocaine in most of those films, either.

Personally, this is about my fifteenth-favorite Eddie Murphy movie - better than Dr. Doolittle, but not quite as enjoyable as Beverly Hills Cop 3.

Jennifer Hudson: I fully expect her to win Best Supporting Actress, and her singing is impressive. I'm not a big fan of her acting or the her spastic hand motions during songs. We hear about the most interesting things about her character second-hand. Her drinking happens offscreen. The romance and cheating with Jamie Foxx happens offscreen. She says she blew through half a million dollars in two years, but of course, it happens offscreen. That's the interesting story! Instead of showing us Hudson's expensive boozing or Eddie's coke binges, we get to see a five-minute Beyonce photo shoot and Danny Glover negotiating record contracts.

Overall theme: Songs lie. The Dreams sing "We Are A Family" to reassure Hudson, a few screen minutes before Beyonce steals her boyfriend, they kick her out of the band, and her brother starts dating her replacement. Hudson sings, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going", before she, well, goes. It's like Rob Schneider's subway guitarist, only in reverse.

Prediction: One acting award but not both, Best Song for "Listen", and Best Sound Mixing. As for Art Direction and Costumes, I have no idea what I'm talking about, but I bet they win one but not both. Four Oscars.

Deserves: Zero.

(Edited 2/22/07, 9:03)

more whale watching


Faith-based whale watching

We spotted two gray whales, but I had to primarily take them on faith. A whale sighting is based on the whale's spout, tiny glimpses of a fin, the pointing of small children. Captain Gary deputized them as our official spotters, and they certainly did a better job than I did.

A gray whale can hold its breath for up to six minutes. This means that passengers will spend more than five minutes patiently staring at the ocean, hoping that the whale would eventually surface in the random spot we were watching. I consistently mistook buoys, birds, and pieces of garbage for whales. Eventually, I hedged my bets by focusing on finding the whale's "slick", a sign of where the whale's tail has moved quickly under the surface, and also the place where Robert Lowell saw the Quakers drown and heard their cry. I also tried to convince people that the whale's slick was "mostly urine".

The Net

There were two rubber nets, strung across the open areas at the bow of our whale watching catamaran. It looked like the best seat on the boat, especially since it was limited to four people and two children. Due to our physical conditioning, we decided that any arrangement that included both me and Eugenio would have a maximum of three. My companions began the journey seated on the net, and I watched them jealously from my perch higher up on the deck. Surely everyone would want to sit on the amazing net, I reasoned. I quietly observed the habits of other passengers, preparing for the moment when I could sneak into the luxury net seating.

Five minutes into the voyage, I learn why the net is not actually appealing. A huge wave splashes Eugenio from under the net, soaking all his clothes, including the gear he wasn't even wearing at the time. Even though some of us spend the majority of the trip actively dragging our feet into the ocean, no one else gets half as wet as Eugenio did from the first wave. By the end of the trip, the net is about as popular as The Net.

Killer whales

We heard that a previous whale watching tour had seen a gray whale and her baby attacked and killed by an orca. Worse, the orca effectively pinned the whales against the whale watching boat before tearing them apart, presumably with small children pointing at the bloodied whales. Fortunately, this did not happen on our trip. Also, while orcas are colloquially known as "killer whales", they are actually dolphins that kill whales. Using that same rationale, my date had a "killer time" with me at junior prom.

Dolphins are not rats

We saw at least ten dolphins on our journey back to the harbor, which was delightful. I was overwhelmed with dolphin-watching excitement, so much that I yelled, "Come back here, you lousy sea rat!" to a dolphin that was swimming away. The first mate was not amused, and eyed me with a mixture of pity and disgust. In hindsight, her disapproval may have been due to how loudly I said "barbed dolphin penis" a few minutes earlier.

The internet tells me that a dolphin penis is not actually barbed, though it does have a severe hook. Experts and zoophiles seem to be divided on whether the appendage is prehensile or not. I liked to think that our favorite dolphin from the trip, Van Ronto (named after the capital of a fictional Canadian province), can indeed grab things with his dolphin dong.

Menage a Trois, Baleine-Style:

Our informational flyer stated that gray whales migrate from Alaska to Baja California in order to mate. It also said that the whales mate in groups of "at least three whales, of mixed gender", but the document does not elaborate further. Gray whales: the freak-nastiest of all the cetaceans.


I re-applied twice for a two-and-a-half hour boat ride, and my face still felt sunburned afterward. Strangers openly discussed my pale skin and the inevitability of my sunburn. The first mate eyed me with a combination of pity and disgust.

The sea is full of cats

Michele asserted that the ocean is full of cats. Michele adores cats, to the extent that she nearly crashed the car on the drive south trying to look at a cat that was sitting in the cab of a truck. She's right that there are many possible sea felines. There's catfish, tiger sharks, leopard sharks, and sea lions.

When we saw some sea lions hanging out on a buoy, I got excited on Michele's behalf.

"Sea lion: King of the sea," I said.

"It's not the king of the sea," Michele replied.

"King of the beasts. Of the sea. They're dominating that buoy!" I countered.

"Shut up," she said.


Bad puns

When we spotted a seal swimming next to the boat on our way back to the harbor, I remarked that the sighting had "sealed the deal" for our trip. Our first mate eyed me with a mixture of pity and disgust.

whale watching

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This afternoon, I went on a whale watching trip off the coast of Santa Barbara. Here was the highlight:

Captain Gary: You can see gray whales off our port side.

Middle-aged woman: Those whales are heading down to Ventura for dinner.

First mate Athena: Actually, they're going down to Baja California to mate.

Me: That depends on how dinner goes.

uncomfortable conversation hearts


Thanks to the ACME Heart Maker, Zembla brings you some special treats for Valentine's Day. Sure, you can get sugary candies anywhere that say, "BE MINE" or "KISS ME". But what if the passion is gone, the flames have died down, and only throbbing resentment remains?

You need Uncomfortable Conversation Hearts.







(Read Part 1)

HoBaggins: merry, u remember that time i stole the mushrooms from farmer maggot?

BrandybuckWild: The time he chased you off his land with his dogs?

HoBaggins: yeah, well...it wasn't the mushrooms he wuz so mad about.

BrandybuckWild: What do you mean, Frodo?

HoBaggins: remember his daughter clare? well...

HoBaggins: dammit, sam just signed on. i dont wanna talk 2 him.

BrandybuckWild: Just go into Invisible mode, Frodo. Then he can't see you're online.

HoBaggins: ok, thx.





HoBaggins: merry, invisible mode isnt working at all!

BrandybuckWild: Did you click on the eye?

HoBaggins: u can see me 2! what eye?

BrandybuckWild: You have to click on the eye icon to go into invisible mode. You didn't know that?

HoBaggins: ummm....

BrandybuckWild: Frodo, are you just typing while wearing the Ring?

HoBaggins: yes.

BrandybuckWild: That doesn't work on the internet! You know, Gandalf warned you that putting on the Ring is a bad idea. Dangerous people can sense it.

HoBaggins: uh oh.

WitchKing09: Hey HoBaggins, a/s/l?

WithchKing09: Do u cyber?

WitchKing09: ;-)

Cementhorizon is turning five years old this month, and we're celebrating. According to Leisa Oesterreich, M.S.:

Five-year-olds are cheerful, energetic, and enthusiastic. They enjoy planning, and spend a great deal of time discussing who will do what. They especially enjoy dramatic play, usually with other children. Five-year-olds are more sensitive to the needs and feelings of others around them. It is less difficult for them to wait for a turn or to share toys and material. "Best friends" become very important.

Because "best friends" are so important, Zembla would like to invite its best friends, the readers, to the Cementhorizon Fifth Birthday Celebration, taking place on February 24th. Here's the details:

WHEN: Saturday, February 24th, at 8 PM.

WHERE: San Francisco. Email to rsvp-at-cementhorizon-dot-com to, um, RSVP and get the location.

WHAT TO BRING: Yourself and snacks. Officially, we are not providing food or refreshments, because five-year-olds are reluctant to share. However, there will be jello shots and a chocolate fountain at the very least. Also, room temperature water and hard tack biscuits.

So if you've ever wanted to party with bloggers, and the staff behind Zembla in particular, come celebrate our fifth birthday with us. I leave you with a list of Dr. Oesterreich's qualities of of five-year-olds that are shared by Cementhorizon:

  • still confuses fantasy with reality sometimes
  • often fears loud noises, the dark, animals, and some people
  • uses swear words or "bathroom words" to get attention
  • likes to argue and reason; use words like "because"
  • seeks adult approval
  • sometimes critical of other children and embarrassed by own mistakes
  • has a good sense of humor, and enjoys sharing jokes and laughter with adults

observations from super bowl xli

Don't stand so close to me:

When CBS went to the obligatory shot of both broadcasters standing up in the booth, Phil Simms stood extremely close to partner Jim Nantz. Simms stood perpendicular to Nantz, his chest against Nantz's shoulder, with both hands clasped above Nantz's crotch. There appeared to be plenty of space for the two guys to stand normally - it wasn't an especially tight angle - and yet Simms arranged himself as if they were taking a prom photo. For his part, Nantz looked very uncomfortable, with his arms held rigidly against his sides. It wasn't an accident. When CBS returned to the shot one quarter later, Simms was back grinding Nantz's hip once again. I didn't catch any homoerotic statements from Simms, but a homoerotic picture is worth a thousand homoerotic words.

Crucial gambling play of the game:

The over/under for the Super Bowl was 47 points, and the final score was 29-17. With 46 total points scored by both teams, the "Under" won, thanks to a fumbled snap on the Colts' first extra point attempt. By mishandling the snap, Hunter Smith cost his team a point, a point that proved to be more important for the gamblers than it was to the Colts. In addition, the failed PAT meant that the game was never tied after 0-0, which determined a big prop bet at our party.

A butterfly flaps its wings in China. Half a world away, Hunter Smith drops the snap. 3,500 miles away from him, Dustin loses a dollar to Jigar.

Groundskeeping MVP, Daunte Culpepper:

Though the weather was terrible, the turf looked great. Some articles lauded George Toma for his field preparation, but the real hero was Daunte Culpepper. Thanks to his horrific quarterbacking, the Dolphins did not play a home game after christmas, and the turf had over a month to recover.

Most deceptive halftime statistic:

At halftime, Rex Grossman's quarterback rating was 120.8. When CBS put up this graphic, everyone laughed, since Rex clearly sucked in the first half. He was 6 of 8, for 32 yards and a touchdown. The rating actually climbed to 122.9 just before Grossman lost 11 yards on consecutive plays with a sack and a fumble. Less than 15 game minutes later, Grossman's QB rating had plunged to 56.8.

Gloria Estefan's accent:

It appears to be twice as strong as it was in the early '90s.

Through halftime, our consensus MVP:


Hidden effect of the rain: Screwed-up hair:

When Jim Nantz had to stand in the rain to present trophies, his perfectly-coiffed hair got wet. Up front, Nantz's hair got soaked, matted down, and generally looked artificial. Extreme weather exposes fake hair, as Chris Myers learned last year when half of his toupee blew off during the Carolina-Chicago game. Sideline reporter Steve Tasker eschewed an umbrella, and looked miserable by halftime. The other sideline reporter wanted no part of the weatrher. After an initial bare-headed report, Solomon Wilcots said fuck it, I'm wearing a hat and a waterproof jacket.

It was a particularly tough day for black hair. While some of us speculated about the safety of Prince playing electric guitar during a rainstorm, Jessica observed that Prince seemed more concerned with his relaxer. Only for his finale was Prince willing to discard his do-rag. Tony Dungy's wife also seemed concerned with her expensive hairsyle during the tedious trophy presentation.

Should Peyton have won the MVP?:

Manning won Super Bowl MVP at even-money odds, a ludicrous percentage for an individual, yet justified, seeing as he won. The next-worst pre-game odds were for Grossman, at 5.5:1. Historically, the MVP award goes to the winning quarterback about 50% of the time, But Vegas saw Peyton as nearly six times more likely than Rex to take home the hardware. Only when the winning QB has unimpressive statistics does someone else win.

Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai were great, but unfortunately, they play the same position. If a player wasn't definitively the best running back on his own team, it is hard to argue that he should be the game msot valuable player. Bob Sanders could have won, with a forced fumble and an interception, based on the Larry Brown/Dexter Jackson Super Bowl MVP rationale. I thought the Indianapolis offensive line's success was the key to the game, but how do you pick out one individual? Thus Peyton Manning set another benchmark: Dorkiest Super Bowl MVP, narrowly edging out Kurt Warner.

Commercials were too long:

90 seconds is too long for a funny ad. See Sierra Mist, Coca-Cola's acid trip ad, or the controversial Snickers ad where two guys accidentally kiss, then recoil in horror. The men then rip out handfuls chest hair, in an attempt to be "manly". Because nothing says "not gay" like removing your chest hair. Of course, the homophobic Snickers ad was at the same Super Bowl that featured Prince, Cirque de Soleil, Phil Simms, and a head coach named Lovie.

In my mind, the main problem with these ads was that they were all short films primarily intended to trick the audience into buying things.

My Super Proposal Denouement:

The guy didn't get his marriage proposal on CBS during the Super Bowl, but his ad did run during Veronica Mars this week. Here's the video of her reaction. I still wish she'd said no.

Most Bizarre Challenge:

Tony Dungy threw his red flag to contend that the Bears had too many men on the field. I had no idea that was reviewable. However, you'd think that the guy who told Dungy to challenge had, you know, counted to make sure.

Lucrative prop bets:

Devin Hester scored the game's first touchdown, beating 20:1 odds. If you'd consistently bet on Hester and also picked Other Chicago TD for "The First Scoring Play of the Game", you won a 14:1 prop. The last touchdown of the game was scored by Kelvim Hayden, which means the betting favorite "Field" won, paying out a healthy $500 for each $100 wagered. In addition, people who bet the last score would "Other Indianapolis TD" took home $1100.

Joseph Addai had the Colts' first reception, paying out at $350. If you bet "Chicago Scores First And Loses", you collected $400 for every $100 wagered. Betting on the winning combing point range of 43-49 won $325. The First Quarter ($325) was the highest-scoring quarter, upsetting the favorite, Second Quarter($190). Wagering that there would be no scoring in the final two minutes of the first half yielded a $190 return.

Lucrative hypothetical prop bets:

Prince will cover a Foo Fighters song during halftime (+7500). Suddenly, Dave Grohl's inexplicable fondness for assless chaps makes sense.
No shot of the troops overseas watching the game, during regulation play (+575). Maybe Peyton Manning just hates the troops.
Entertaining ads produced specifically for this Super Bowl (O/U 2.5, UNDER). I blame GoDaddy.
Rex Grossman doesn't throw an interception until the fourth quarter (+450).
Buckets of Gatorade dumped on winning coach (O/U 1.5, OVER)

We finished the keg:

At 8:30 P.M. I drank out of a red SOLO cup that identified me as "Eli". Gene's cup read "Maurice". Docta V's said "God".

No trick plays:

Last year, trick plays helped Pittsburgh put away Seattle in the Super Bowl. This year, neither team to my knowledge did as much as run an end around. The Colts don't even seem to run a large variety of regular plays. They're sort of like a dominant high school team that gets by by running the same three plays all game, because the defense can't stop them. If Tony Dungy retires, maybe the Colts can lure Bob Ladoceur away from De La Salle.

Questions To Ponder

Is it possible that the frustrated pouty faces that Peyton Manning makes on the sidelines have very little to do with his poise while playing quarterback?
Did anyone miss "Eye Vision", the CBS technology that made replays look just like The Matrix?
Why didn't they show Archie and Eli Manning in the stands? Was it raining too hard to show the luxury boxes?
Who is "this generation's Dan Marino"? Donovan McNabb? Will he also start dyeing his hair blond in retirement?

Was it a good Super Bowl?:

I say, absolutely. The first quarter was extremely exciting and unpredictable, mainly because neither team could hold onto the ball. There were rushing, receiving, special teams, and defensive touchdowns throughout the game. And watching Rex Grossman play quarterback was like watching Plan 9 From Outer Space or Troll 2: worth seeing because it's failure on such a grand scale. Two terrible interceptions, multiple fumbles, plays where he fell down untouched, plays where he ran the wrong direction, Rex did it all. I like to imagine that Tony Eason and David Woodley shared a champagne toast together as the mantle of Worst Super Bowl QB of all time was finally passed.

GreyWizard69: Frodo, you were asleep for weeks
HoBaggins: Gandalf? WTF?

(The Fellowship of the Ring has entered the chat room)

HoBaggins: Pippin! :)
HoBaggins: Merry! :) :)
HoBaggins: Gimli! ;)
HoBaggins: Legolas! :/)
HoBaggins: Aragorn!!! ------|)

What else to look for in the super bowl

6a. Commercials = Disappointment:

It turns out the My Super Proposal guy will not in fact get his proposal on TV. For some reason, CBS is planning to run a commercial for which someone paid $2 million, rather than this guy's proposal, for free. If you're that guy's girlfriend, you have to ask yourself: Do I want to marry such a failure?

Meanwhile, Kevin Federline has starred in a commercial and managed to offend...fast food workers. When I heard there was a protest to K-Fed's dissing of fast food workers, I thought, fast food workers? That has to be the least powerful labor union in the history of the world. Then I realized that fast food workers aren't organized! It was actually the National Restaurant Association that complained, thus getting the first publicity ever received by the National Restaurant Association.

8. Will Marvin Harrison choke?:

Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning has acquired a reputation as a choker, because of the Colts' postseason defeats. However, receiver Marvin Harrison has played significantly worse in those losses, and worse in the wins as well. Harrison dropped a few passes against the Patriots last week, but it was forgotten in the wake of the Colts' comeback win. Manning hasn't been great in the playoffs, but Joe Montana wouldn't have looked that great if Jerry Rice had dropped passes all the time.

Who will be the most prominent player to cry on the field?

I'm not talking about the locker room, or the postgame celebration. I'm only counting tears that happen on the field. No matter how much he has been wanting this Super Bowl title, I don't see Coach Tony Dungy crying on the field. I think there are the leading candidates:

*Peyton Manning - Not if he wins, but if he throws a bad interception, or injures his hand, or gets his feelings hurt.

*Rex Grossman - Again, not after winning, but more likely after he simply gets too excited after throwing a long pass. It won't even matter if it's complete or incomplete; I'm expecting just a bizarre surge of adrenaline and emotion resulting in some hysterical tears.

*Lance Briggs - Just a hunch.

*Robbie Gould - After an injury on a kickoff return.

*Ted Marchibroda - Because he is 87 years old.

What to look for in the Super Bowl

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1. Homoeroticism

As discussed in this space in the past, Phil Simms and Jim Nantz are the most homoerotic announcing team in sports. Nantz is unnaturally calm and emotionless, so the most interesting moments will happen when he and Simms discuss a player's physique, or gently spar about each other's sartorial choices. There's something magical when Nantz's yuppie blandness and Simms's aw-shucks country-boy drawl combine to straight-facedly discuss the "deepest penetration of the night" or overuse the word "backside".

Player names that sound dirty: Brian Griese, John Tait, Adewale Ogunleye. ("Ogunleye" means Iron God).

2. Family members in the crowd

Peyton Manning's father is former NFL quarterback Archie Manning. If this game was on FOX, we'd be seeing him every ten minutes, from progressively closer camera angles. If Indianapolis were to put together a fourth-quarter drive, the FOX cameras would alternate between images of praying Colts fans and zoomed-in shots of Archie's nose hair, breaking away only milliseconds before the snap of the ball. Since it's on CBS, we'll see more measured use of the relative shot, but we should see Archie at least once per quarter.

The most notable Bear relative is backup QB Bran Griese's dad, a former QB for the Miami Dolphins. Two factors will prevent us from seeing much of Dad Griese: Unless Rex Grossman gets hurt, Brian won't play; and Dad works for ABC. It would be interesting if they chose to show any of Brian Urlacher's illegitimate children in the crowd.

3. Name puns

If Peyton Manning is intercepted by Bears cornerback Ricky Manning, Jr., Simms might actually spit up with excitement. Same name! If Ricky Manning, Jr. then lateraled the ball to safety Danieal Manning, Joe Buck might have a mild aneurysm, so great would his frustration be at missing the chance to shout, "Manning...to Manning...to Manning! That was a disgusting act!"

Other ones to look for:

Jeff Saturday recovers a fumble in the end zone: "This year for Indianapolis, they'll remember Super Bowl Saturday".

Hunter Hillenmayer forces a fumble: "The Bears defense thrives on turnovers, and he was certainly hunting for one there."

Anthony "Booger" MacFarland intercepts a pass: "Booger MacFarland with the pick!"

Cedric Benson is stopped short of a first down: "The doorbell rings, and Benson says, 'You want me to get that...?'"

Israel Odinije makes a tackle: "If he keeps making plays like that, Indianapolis will have to recognize Israel's right to exist."

Cato June's pants come off as he runs to the sidelines: "June is busting out all over!"

Rex Grossman starts dry-humping a Colts cheerleader on the sideline: "That is gross, man."

4. There will be endless pre-game discussion of "The Super Bowl Shuffle", the rap song recorded by the 1985 Bears prior to their lone Super Bowl triumph. To date, that is still the only musical performance by a sports team to be nominated for a Grammy (for Best Rhythm & Blues Vocal Performance—Duo or Group). The Bears did not dominate the Grammy Awards like they dominated the Patriots. "The Super Bowl Shuffle" lost out to "Kiss", recorded by none other than halftime performer Prince.

5. Prince performing at the halftime show after writing "WHORE" on his cheek.

6. Funny commercials! I do wonder what Bud Light has in store for us this year! And Pepsi is sure to spend a great deal of money on a dorky ad campaign, ideally with a bunch of dorky celebrities, and maybe also a talking animal. My one hope for the Super Bowl ads is that the My super Proposal guy gets shot down. Because I am mean and heartless. But also because he has already signed a deal with a marketing company to imemdiately put his girlfriend's reaction shot up on YouTube. If she rejects him, it may be the greatest, most painful viral video of all time. Just say no, His Super Girlfriend.

7. Colts by 10.

Via Wikipedia:

France: What's Up Doc?

Germany: Our Loud Home

Italy: Parents In Blue Jeans

Latin America: Ouch! Growing Up Hurts

China: Growing Up's Agony (Note: Growing Pains was so popular in China that when it aired in China, Lizzie McGuire was known as New Growing Pains)

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