Thursday, May 21, 2009

Referees please!

I usually write off the refs as being pretty good or when they are bad as not being very bad - to the effect that I never thought refs would ALTER the course of a game/series. However, this year that opinion has changed drastically.

In the Bulls-Celtics series I was disgusted by all of what Rajon Rondo got away with. He went from an aggressive, physical player in the first game or two to being a violent player. Rondo split open Kirk Hinrich's eyebrow, knocked out some of Brad Miller's teeth and picked up where he left off with Hinrich by throwing him into the scorer's table. His foul on Miller came at a critical point of the game where Miller had to make free throws for the Bulls to stay in the game. Knocking Miller to the floor on a fast break that also knocked out his teeth did not even draw a flagrant foul (although replays showed Rondo hardly attempting to swat the ball). Furthermore Rondo's Hinrich/scorer's table incident further puzzled me. Replays showed Rondo blatantly dragging Hinrich backwards and then throwing him into the scorer's table - an incident that two years earlier resulted in a TWO GAME suspension for Robert Horry. Remember that this foul came after refs were supposedly going to watch Rondo with a closer eye after he bloodied two Bulls' starters. Why the different treatment? Why is the NBA inconsistent? Why are there different repercussions for different players? I'm not sure there is an answer. But Rondo should have a) fouled out of a game b) been suspended. So this series frustrated me by MISSING CALLS.

In the Lakers-Rockers series as well as the Lakers-Nuggets series the refs are nothing short of trigger happy - calling anything and everything a foul and being generous in heaping on technical fouls. Again, why the inconsistency? In particular it seems that in the Lakers-Nuggets series the refs have returned to being generous in what they allow as "defense" by the Nuggets (do not get me wrong, they play great defense but enough is enough) while being very harsh on the Lakers' stars when the Lakers try to play defense. It seems like if a Laker touches Chauncy Billups the ref is there to call a foul but if Kobe has a defender smacking him on the head and tripping him, he has to look up from the court as Denver moves the ball back down the court. And then Kobe asks a little to aggressively about the previous call and gets a technical. Hmmm. So this series frustrated me by MAKING CALLS.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Historical "fiction"

I love reading historical fiction. Lately I've been obsessed with Sharan Newman's Catherine LeVendeur series and C.J. Sansom's Matthew Shardlake series. I love the books a hell of a lot - they're drastically different beyond both being historical mysteries but I strongly recommend both series. Anyways, I love reading historical fiction because I love history and also because, if I had the discipline and focus to write a book, I'd want to write historical fiction. In both of these series the main fictional characters interact heavily with real historical figures. This led me to the issue of, how important is it to rely heavily on historical characters? Or for that matter, historical accuracy? Like, it's one thing to build your book around popular (of that historical period) controversies swirling around a major historical figure, but how strictly do you stick to the facts? Will your readers be happy if you invent a character to be Abelard's protege or Cromwell's steward? I kept turning this question over when I was thinking about how to build a story around characters - are you hindered by history? Or can you embrace the time but not all the minute details (does it matter if Cromwell's steward is not the same character you create in your book?) I guess I don't really have an answer but I feel like I would lean heavily for "creative application of history" as I call it - being faithful to the times yet not constrained by fact. Cromwell's steward could be whomever you want as long as the steward is not a pregnant African lesbian who believes in Kaballah. Not that there is anything wrong with any of those things, there just weren't many of either of them in England five hundred or so years ago.

F**K Madoff

So I was reading up on Elie Wiesel today because I was trying to remember which book he wrote that deals with the pre-Israel Zionist terrorist group that executes a British soldier (it was Dawn). Elie Wiesel is famous for Night, his autobiography about the Holocaust, of which he was an Auschwitz survivor. Wiesel is pretty much "the guy" when it comes to Holocaust awareness and he has done so much. He even has one of the most successful charity organizations for running Holocaust education events.

But you know what's coming based on the article title...the organization lost all of it's money in the Madoff scandal. Oh and Elie Wiesel lost all of his personal wealth too. Wow. Kind of ridiculous.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Random funness

Back in the day when writing my column, The Buzz, was my favorite thing to do for my old e-zine, SaltyStix, I stockpiled a lot of interesting articles about movies for my "around the internet" section, or whatever I called it. I might even have written about a few of these, but that was so long ago, so, cleaning out the bookmarks.

* 25 Most Influential Directors of all Time - This was interesting albeit pretty predictable. But it's great if your Netflix queue is empty and you've forgotten about the classics for awhile.

* Best and Worst Musicians in Movies - This is kind of amusing in a pretty way but once again, is pretty predictable.

* New York Times Romantic Comedy Analysis - Surprising that the New York Times found page space to talk about rom-coms but this was going to be the locus for an article about rom-coms, breaking down their formulaic structure, etc.

* Top 20 Rom-Coms - This is another page I found doing some research for that article - the other links turned out to suck.

* 25 Most Watched Movies - This list is pretty close to mine which is why I liked it so much. Obviously it's heavy on recent movies.

* Worst Movie Remakes of All Time - This is worth some good laughs and might also help you fill your Netflix queue if you want to compare some of the originals vs their remakes.

* Criticizing the AFI - I've never been a fan of the AFI (I think Citizen Kane is overrated) and anytime someone has a laugh at their expense I laugh with them.

* Linsey Lohan's Marilyn Phase- Before Lindsay was into Samantha she was into Marilyn and these pictures aren't half bad.

* Comics Old School/New School - This came out amid the summer comic onslaught and provides a great fanboys perspective that gets lost amid the Hollywood.

* 20 Tips for Starting Your Own Movie Blog - Maybe if I would have followed this SaltyStix would be alive and kicking, but instead, here I am.

* Forbes Writes about the best Movie Blogs - This is pretty unfulfilling but there are brief snippets on Forbes' take on other themed blogs (beyond just movies).

* Become Indy! - I was Indiana Jones for last Halloween, and a damn good one. But if you want to take your costume to the next level, this site is a must.

* Best Graphic Novels of all Time - There are some interesting choices on here - especially ones that stray to the non-superhero variety. I still want to get my hands on Ghost World.

* Read Twilight for Free - This craze left people without books or with empty pocketbooks. This website provided a solution to both.

* Top 20 Rappers of All Time - I started listening to a lot of rap and this page provided a brief overview that helped me get my bearings.

* 25 Movies about Foreign Affairs/Diplomacy - This is a fun article if you think you are educated on foreign affairs and diplomacy and also like movies (like me of course).

Monday, May 11, 2009

MTV Madness

I have never been a fan of MTV or award shows really, so it should be no surprise that the combination of the two – MTV award shows would not be something I was a fan of. For some reason in particular, this year’s MTV Movie Award nominees have particularly angered me. One thing that stands out is Twilight’s SEVEN awards, sure the movie made a shitload of money and has a fanatic teen following, but the movie was a disappointment across the board – acting, writing, action and here it sits, but lets look at all the categories.

Best Movie
The Dark Knight
High School Musical 3: Senior Year
Iron Man
Slumdog Millionaire

Three of these movies are really good, one is a disappointment, but one is a travesty. You realize they put The Dark Knight and High School Musical 3 in the same category, as near equals? I’m not going to say anymore. MY PICK: Slumdog Millionaire. WHO WILL WIN: The Dark Knight.

Best Male Performance
Christian Bale (The Dark Knight)
Vin Diesel (Fast & Furious)
Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man)
Zac Efron (High School Musical 3: Senior Year)
Shia LaBeouf (Eagle Eye)

Bale and Downey were amazing (of course) but the rest of these hacks are definitely outclassed. Vin Diesel is struggling to get back into character, Efron is struggling to get out of character, and Shia LaBeouf doesn’t even have a character. As a point of clarification I meant that Eagle Eye sucked – A LOT. MY PICK: Robert Downey Jr. WHO WILL WIN: Christian Bale.

Best Female Performance
Anne Hathaway (Bride Wars)
Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)
Angelina Jolie (Wanted)
Kristen Stewart (Twilight)
Kate Winslet (The Reader)

The selection of these nominees is even more confusing than their male counterparts. Hathaway’s nod here is more of a slap in the face considering her performance in Rachel Getting Married while Henson’s performance was okay but seems well short of the “Best Performance” level. Jolie’s nomination reminds me of LaBeouf’s nom in Eagle Eye – both Wanted and Eagle Eye sucked – and did not have any performances that were even “adequate.” Winselt’s performance doesn’t need much comment here – she was great. Kristen Stewart was the one bright spot in a disappointing movie – but was it the best performance of the year? Was she better than Winslet? MY PICK: Kate Winslet. WHO WILL WIN: Kristen Stewart.

Breakthrough Performance – Male
Ben Barnes (The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian)
Taylor Lautner (Twilight)
Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire)
Robert Pattinson (Twilight)
Bobb’e J. Thompson (Role Models)

This category is “better” only in the sense that there are two noms I like – Dev Patel, who did a great job and truly “broke out,” and Bobb’e J. Thompson, whose role in Role Models was not only hysterical but also probably opened a lot of doors for him. Two noms for Twilight is a little disappointing – I had to look up who Taylor Lautner’s character was (Jacob) and then scratch my head about his screen time. MY PICK: Dev Patel. WHO WILL WIN: Robert Pattinson.

Breakthrough Performance – Female
Miley Cyrus (Hannah Montana: The Movie)
Kat Dennings (Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playllist)
Vanessa Hudgens (High School Musical 3: Senior Year)
Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire)
Amanda Seyfried (Mamma Mia!)
Ashley Tisdale (High School Musical 3: Senior Year)

I think this category has the most competition. The High School Musical 3 noms confuse me because it would seem like the third time around these Disney-made actors do not have much “breaking out to do.” If you’re in the public consciousness enough to have sex tapes and racy photos, you probably don’t need “breakout performances.” Same goes for Miley Cyrus considering she has a show that already helped her “breajout”. That aside, I love the other nominees – I’ve been a big fan of Kat Dennings since Charlie Bartlett (so much so that I forgave her for The House Bunny). Frieda Pinto is obviously gorgeous and did a great job and Amanda Seyfried really did break out – showing she had talent beyond her Mean Girls-glazed eyes looked. MY PICK: Kat Dennings. WHO WILL WIN: Miley Cyrus.

Best Comedic Performance
Steve Carrell (Get Smart)
Jim Carrey (Yes Man)
Anna Faris (The House Bunny)
James Franco (Pineapple Express)
Amy Poehler (Baby Mama)

I think all of these actors are generally funny and generally pretty good actors but their performances came in movies that ranged from laughless (The House Bunny) to downright painful (Baby Mama). While Pineapple Express was entertaining, it was not all that funny. There was one that stood above the rest – Steve Carrell in Get Smart – a movie that exceeded expectations across the board. MY PICK: Steve Carrell. WHO WILL WIN: James Franco.

Best Villain
Luke Goss (Hellboy II: The Golden Army)
Dwayne Johnson (Get Smart)
Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)
Derek Mears (Friday the 13th)
Johnathon Schaech (Prom Night)

I don’t know a hell of a lot about most of these flicks because I never really had extra cash I wanted to burn by seeing Friday the 13th and Prom Night but I don’t think this matters because I would be shocked if Ledger lost. MY PICK: Heath Ledger. WHO WILL WIN: Heath Ledger.

Best Fight
Bride Wars
The Dark Knight
Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Pineapple Express

This category gives me the most problem because I have very little idea what people are going for here. If you like cat fights it’s kind of tough to beat Bride Wars but if you want true action scenes The Dark Knight and Hellboy II are going to stand above the rest. Pineapple Express’ scene was pretty funny and pretty good in a general sense, but not a hell of a lot that really stays with you. Twilight on the other hand showed that if the scene sucked in the book, it will suck even more in the movie. MY PICK: The Dark Knight. WHO WILL WIN: Twilight, maybe?

Best Kiss
High School Musical 3: Senior Year (Zac Efron/Vanessa Hudgens)
I Love You, Man (Paul Rudd/Thomas Lennon)
Milk (Sean Penn/James Franco)
Slumdog Millionaire (Dev Patel/Freida Pinto)
Twilight (Kristen Stewart/Robert Pattinson)

Milk stands out for it’s political statement, which gives it a slight edge over some teenie favorites like HSM3 and Twilight. Frankly the Twilight kiss wasn’t much to write home about – much like the rest. Slumdog Millionaire’s kiss was something special – it sent shivers down my spine and was the perfect climax to a great movie. MY PICK: Slumdog Millionaire (Dev Patel/Freida Pinto). WHO WILL WIN: Milk (Sean Penn/James Franco).

Best WTF Moment
Baby Mama (Peeing in the Sink)
Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Naked Break-up)
Slumdog Millionaire (Jumping in the Poop Shed)
Tropic Thunder (Tasting the Decapitated Head)
Wanted (Curved Bullet Kill)

While this category seems the least “legit” to me it also seems the closest category. Peeing in the sink might be the best part of Baby Mama, the naked break-up defines FSM just as the curved bullet defines Wanted, the poop shed sets the course for Slumdog and the decapitated head makes you realize just how far over the line Tropic Thunder has gone. MY PICK: Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Naked Break-up). WHO WILL WIN: Baby Mama (Peeing in the Sink).

Best Song From a Movie
Hannah Montana: The Movie (Miley Cyrus’ The Climb)
Slumdog Millionaire (A.R. Rahman’s Jai Ho)
Twilight (Paramore’s Decode)
The Wrestler (Bruce Springsteen’s The Wrestler)

These choices cross lots of genres and lots of generations. I loved all of Slumdog’s music but Jai Ho was not the song that spoke to me, kind of like how I like Paramore a lot of times but not Decode. I don’t really want to talk about Miley but Springsteen’s The Wrestler blew me away. I don’t usually like the Boss, but this song was so perfect for the film. MY PICK: The Wrestler. WHO WILL WIN: The Climb.

To sum up: Twilight is overrated, each of the categories have one legit nominee, and the lesser qualified person will probably win.

I'm so over blogging

...but here I am.

For so long I thought that maybe my blogging would become something - whether it was here or at Salty Stix but then when the cold hard truth set in I got extremely disenfranchised. I didn't think there was a point anymore. But then I realized that I had to write something, somewhere. To me writing is like cooking (well, everyone has one, cooking is mine) in that writing also relaxes me, it helps me focus my mind, and so, here I am.
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