Saturday, March 31, 2007

Picks Guaranteed to Go Wrong

I've been thinking a lot about morality & ethics lately. I have some thoughts to share and I'll be fleshing them out here in the coming weeks. So don't give up on me & tune away just yet.

But for now, I've got to get my MLB predictions out before the season begins.

AL East

94-68 x-New York Yankees
90-72 y-Boston Red Sox
80-82 Toronto Blue Jays
75-87 Baltimore Orioles
65-97 Tampa Bay Devil Rays

AL Central

93-69 x-Detroit Tigers
88-74 Cleveland Indians
85-77 Chicago White Sox
82-80 Minnesota Twins
60-102 Kansas City Royals

AL West

94-68 x-Los Angeles Angels
84-78 Oakland Athletics
83-79 Texas Rangers
70-92 Seattle Mariners

NL East

92-70 x-New York Mets
87-75 Philadelphia Phillies
86-76 Atlanta Braves
72-90 Florida Marlins
59-103 Washington Nationals

NL Central

90-72 x-Milwaukee Brewers
89-73 y-St. Louis Cardinals
83-79 Houston Astros
82-80 Chicago Cubs
77-85 Cincinnati Reds
65-97 Pittsburgh Pirates

NL West

90-72 x-San Diego Padres
82-80 Colorado Rockies
80-82 San Francisco Giants
78-84 Arizona Diamondbacks
75-87 Los Angeles Dodgers

Too many games to be played for me to try to predict how it will play out in October. But I will say (go ahead & call me a homer...) that I like the Red Sox in a short series. ;-)

AL Cy Young:
Johan Santana, Minnesota Twins

Travis Hafner, Cleveland Indians

AL Rookie of the Year:
Daisuke Matsuzaka, Boston Red Sox

NL Cy Young:
Ben Sheets, Milwaukee Brewers

Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals

NL Rookie of the Year:
Josh Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds

Random Predictions:

  • Barry Bonds hits 30+ homeruns and thus breaks Hank Aaron's all-time record of 755.

  • Bobby Cox hangs 'em up as Atlanta Braves manager at the end of this season when the new cheap ownership allows John Smoltz & Andruw Jones to walk. Smoltz signs with the Detroit Tigers & Andruw signs with the Boston Red Sox.

  • Bobby's successor will be Joe Torre. Joe returns to Atlanta where he has formerly played & managed. He's not tired of baseball; just tired of the unreal Yankee expectations. He's attracted to Atlanta by his history with the franchise, the first-class front office headed by John Schuerholz, and the opportunity to teach young ballplayers. Another first-round failure in the playoffs marks Joe's final season in pinstripes.

  • This is NOT A-Rod's final season in pinstripes.

  • Torre's successor in the Bronx will be the overwhelmingly popular Joe Girardi.

  • Roger Clemens announces that he is returning to the Yankees around Memorial Day. Sometime around the middle of September, he will pull up with some kind of nagging injury and announce his retirement from Major League Baseball FOR GOOD. No one believes him, but 2008 comes and goes & Clemens fattens up and it becomes apparent that his retirement actually is for real. Three years following the retirement, some crafty investigative reporter will release a blockbuster, best-selling tell-all book that reveals an organized MLB cover-up of Clemens' 2007 positive test for steroids. This reporter chronicles how MLB didn't want another black eye & convinced Clemens to finally retire and avoid public embarassment. Forget the controversy over Mark McGwire; "The Rocket" becomes the new poster child for steroids in baseball as America finally wakes up to realize how more pitchers than hitters are users.

Okay, I know that my last prediction was very random, and very randomly detailed. But if it happens, I'll look like a GENIUS, no?

Monday, March 12, 2007

My Take on the Madness

My 5/12 Upset:

Long Beach State (over Tennessee)

My Final Four:

Ohio State

My Champ:

Florida disappoints the Buckeyes again

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Ruthless Basketball Fans

Basketball fans are the worst. Well, I take that back. Sox & Yankees fans are the worst. I'm talking about the real hardcore fans who wear the profanity-laden shirts. But after that, it's college basketball fans.

Case in point. This used to be my favorite basketball poster. While trying to praise their favorite player, J.J. Redick, these Duke fans get their sign punked at a Maryland game:


That was my favorite sign. That is, until I saw a video of a sign from when Florida played at LSU a week or so ago. The sign was making fun of Joakim Noah, the Florida basketball player who is sitting in the middle in this picture:

What did the sign say? "Was Noah this UGLY in the Bible?"

Friday, March 02, 2007

He Shoots, He Scorcese's!

The DepartedJust Watched:
The Departed

My Rating:
4½ Stars

After The Departed racked up at the Oscars this past Sunday night (winning for "Best Picture" & "Best Director"), I decided I needed to view this movie. I'm so glad I did.

A fore-warning. The language used in the film is pretty filthy. If you don't have a stomach for that, steer clear. But what struck me even worse was the violence. Not a small amount of blood-splattering scenes. This is a guy who found Passion of the Christ too be a little too much for me on a silver screen. Departed didn't reach that level, but it's not a long way off. But, when you're talking about a mob movie, you expect not a little of both of these.

As I just stated, the plot revolves around the American/Irish Mob in Boston, Mass. The mob boss is played by Jack Nicholson. Superb job. Scorcese originally wanted DeNiro to play this role, but it wouldn't have been the same. DeNiro always appears more reserved & calculated in his roles. Nicholson brings that "Here's Johnny!" & Joker vibe that scares the mess out of you. And that's exactly what his role was meant to do: scare the mess out of you. Nicholson at his best.

Leonardo DiCaprio
DiCaprio Delivers
And I am forced to admit that this film marks, at least for me, the emergence of one of the new great actors of our generation. I'll have to admit that I had not understood the buzz until now. All I'd seen of this "pretty boy" was his work in Titanic & Catch Me If You Can, and he seemed like one of those sell-out guys. You know: one of those kinds of actors with the pretty face who attracts the ladies & plays some kind of unrealistic, sweater-wearing dream boy. Plus, this was his third film with Scorcese, and he had already also done a film with Spielberg. "What a spoiled brat," I thought. Even his name sounded fake. Nevertheless, Leonardo DiCaprio truly is emerging as a "Must-See" marquee name. Much like Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, & Tom-Cruise-used-to-be, I see the phrase "a DiCaprio movie" entering our vernacular (another guy who is sneaking his way into this realm: Christian Bale). This guy is GOOD in this movie. GOOD! He goes toe-to-toe with every other actor in this film & nails it in every scene. If this were Gymnastics, I'd give him a 10. I don't know HOW he wasn't nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for THIS role. He was nominated instead for Blood Diamond. As much as I enjoyed him in Departed, guess which movie just got bumped to the top of my Netflix Queue? ;-D I cannot be effusive enough about how much I enjoyed DiCaprio in this movie. And I'm so surprised that that last sentence in no way sounds gay anymore.

If there is anyone who disappointed in this flick, I'd say it was Matt Damon. And it's not really Damon's fault. It's just that his character was written to be more stale & static, and in the movies I've seen him in recently he is also relatively stale & static. And he's surrounded by a group of characters in this story who are all so distinctive & well-played that it's almost like he was setup to fail in a sense. Don't get the wrong impression: he does his job right. He carries the ball & doesn't drop it. But for a guy who is closer to 40 than he is 30, I'm getting a little tired of seeing him in roles where he also plays himself in flashbacks at the age-range of 18-25. It's not that he doesn't pull it off; it's just that this is what he plays in a lot of his movies lately. Still, Damon is on par with DiCaprio: one of those guys who's emerging as the best in the business.

The guy who stole the show for me was Mark Wahlberg. Marky Mark! He gets probably 40% of the film's curse words. But he steals every scene he is in. It is a SHAM that he was not nominated for Best Supporting Actor. He was phenomenal as well.

All of the other supporting actors & actresses -- Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin, Mark Rolston (Bogs from Shawshank), etc. -- also delivered in their roles.

This film left me wanting more Scorcese. People of my generation don't know him as well because he really sort of peaked in the 80's, but he's apparently one of the best directors of our generation. Scorcese finally getting his Best Director Oscar was like Elway winning the Super Bowl or Earnhardt finally winning the Daytona 500. So I've added some of his movies to my Queue, like Raging Bull, Goodfellas, & Casino.

The real thematic idea that the story studies & tinkers with is that of identity. You have a mob guy as a mole in the police department. And you have a State police officer under-cover as a gang member. And both struggle with their double-lives. You can even see this theme being developed from the line that Nicholson delivers in the trailer:

When I was your age they used to say you could become cops or criminals. What I'm saying to you is this... When you're facing a loaded gun, what's the difference?

What is it that separates the bad guy from the good guy? Each character sells himself to his enemy so well that it's hard to remember who the bad guy is sometimes. But each character deals with self-doubt about who they really are on the inside after doing the things they have done. It's really a fun thing to watch.

The only reason this film didn't receive 5 stars by me is the ending. There's a little twist at the end that didn't need to be there. I didn't buy it, anyway. Nevertheless, I've decided to not let a strange ending spoil my enjoyment of the totality of this film experience. It was suspenseful. It was exciting. It was a great thrill ride. I loved this movie & I think you will, too.

Other films I've seen since Christmas via Netflix:

16 Blocks: 3½ Stars. I liked. You've never seen Bruce Willis like this.

Cars: 4 Stars. I don't care who you are -- that's funny right there.

The Usual Suspects: 3 stars. It was aight.

One Night with the King: 2 stars. Hollywood fouled up the ending.

Man of the Year: 1 star. God-awful film. And I love Robin Williams.

Desperado: 2 stars. Eh...

Once Upon a Time in Mexico: 2 stars. [Sigh...]

The Boondock Saints: 2 stars. Cool concept, but it doesn't deliver.