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Saturday, February 21, 2015

3D at the Oscars

The 9th Annual Oscars tradition by the baseball widow and me is complete and I have ranked the films as how I liked them.  I am sure there are people that agree with me, people that disagree with me and quite frankly people who really don't care what I have to say.  I will say this, I have picked 7 of the last 9 winners accurately.  I am calling shenanigans on "The Artist" in 2011, I did not think it was better than "War Horse", "The Descendants" or even the "The Help".  But what do I know.  My other miss was in 2007 when I had "There Will Be Blood" slightly ahead of "No Country for Old Men".  This was the best field since the Academy expanded the nominations. Here are my rankings how I see them.

1. American Sniper - I really liked this movie.  Not because of the controversy, not because of my high respect of the military, but because it was a great film.  A friend of mine pointed out to me (while reading the book) that he could not connect with Chris Kyle.  He was right, I may have connected a little more than him, but some of the decisions that Kyle made when it came to redeployment I could not relate to, even if I was a soldier.  Nevertheless, I thought Director Clint Eastwood did a great job capturing the demons that Chris Kyle was living with during the Iraq war.  He brought to life what the soldiers were going through against the insurgent soldiers.  I have to admit, the ending of the movie is really moving and I would not judge anybody that cried during it.  If I had a vote, this movie this movie would get the Oscar.

2. Selma - This was a very well done movie and not for the obvious reasons.  Not only was the story of the march from Selma told very well but what intrigued me most about this movie was the story of the imperfections behind this historic event.  How Dr. King was portrayed as an adulterer, a smoker and somewhat of a narcissist.  How Coretta Scott King was not as initially supportive of her husband’s actions.  How LBJ was portrayed as a fraud by being more concerned with his legacy than the movement that he was credited for pushing forward.  I thought the movie was directed very well and the director did in fact get snubbed for a nomination.  Not my top pick for the Oscar but I would not be disappointed if it won. 

3. Birdman - This one totally caught me by surprise, and to be honest it shouldn't have.  The story was a little quirky but somewhat believable.  The cast was great and the acting and directing was fantastic.  Michael Keaton gave a great performance and should win Best Actor for it, but he is in great company in that category as well.  The reason that this movie did not get the number one vote because there were some scenes and story lines that were irrelevant to the movie and I felt like they were just trying to fill time.  It wasn't a lot, but it was enough for me to mention.  This is a must see if you are looking for a good rental.

4. Whiplash - This one really caught me by surprise.  I went into it thinking that it was the token Indie film that the Academy had to add when they expanded the field.  Nope!  This movie was deserving of the nomination.  The story is probably a very common occurrence if you really look into it.  It is a sort of coming of age story but for the wrong reasons.  Miles Teller goes from a lovable goofball that you are rooting for, to a guy you just want to punch in the face.  However, J.K. Simmons steals the show in this movie and should definitely win Best Supporting Actor, but once again he is in good company.  I would definitely recommend seeing this movie.  It's funny, disturbing and sad all wrapped in one.

5 a. The Theory of Everything - I really couldn't decide between this and 5 b.  They were both fantastic films.  I made this one "a" because the fact that Stephen Hawking is still alive is mesmerizing.  The story was more about his wife Jane and the troubles she went through dealing with Stephen's disability.  Some could say she could have been a little more devoted and appreciative of the family foundation.  Some could also say that she was young when she got into this and dealing with three children and a debilitated husband was more than anyone could ask for.  The one thing I really did like about this movie was how nobody was really cast as a villain in this relationship, when it would be really easy to do sp.  This movie was good but not worth the Oscar.

5 b. Imitation Game - I really liked this movie.  I love World War II history, no matter what the topic, so this movie had that going for it from the start.  The story of Alan Turing is great and I must admit, I wish I had a mind like that.  Where a simple conversation could trigger him to come up with a theory to complete the task at hand.  The acting in this movie is great, even though I think Benedict Cumberbatch is an overrated actor.  Kiera Knightly was brilliant as always.  The one thing I did not like about this movie was the wrap up at the conclusion of the film.  I think the order of the wrap up took away from the actual events and it gave a completely different depiction of the story.  I'm not saying the piece should have been omitted, because it was an important piece.  It should have been noted afterwards.  Just saying.

7.  Boyhood - Conceptually this movie should win in a walk.  Unfortunately, concept alone doesn't win the award.  This was a true coming of age film in every sense of the word.  The issues I had with this film were, first, you never knew what year they were in, how old main character Mason was and I always felt like I was trying to catch up.  Secondly, the movie lacked substance.  It just did not give me enough.  There was no real story other than that we were watching Mason grow up.  I did think that Ethan Hawke was brilliant in this movie as he was the one actor who truly went through an evolution during the movie, garnering him a Supporting Actor nomination.  I will say this, this is an interesting movie and if you have almost three hours to kill, check it out.

8. (Distant 8) - The Grand Budapest Hotel - I completely forgot that this was a Wes Anderson film because Wes Anderson, to me, is very forgettable.  I really want to like his movies because he always has a great cast, but I just can't do it.  I do have to say this, if it weren't for Wes Anderson Jason Schwartzman would not have a very good career in acting.  Anyhow, if you have seen Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums or Moonrise Kingdom, watch them again and move on.  The Grand Budapest Hotel is not worth the time.

There you have it folks, my rankings.  I truly believe that seven out of the eight nominees have a good chance at winning.  If The Grand Budapest Hotel does manage to come out on top, I will lose all faith in the Oscars and start my own movie awards.


If you don't take it from me, ask my wife

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Feeling Deflated?

Are you sick of "Deflate-gate"? Yeah, me too.  I hate to say it people, that's the cost of doing business being a Patriots fan.  Whether you believe that or not, I'm sorry.  The story is not, what was done, rather it was, who did it.  The issue I have had over the past two days was put into light by WEEI radio host, Michael Holley, is that nobody is being objective about this whole thing, Patriot fans, Patriot haters, media and the NFL.  I was guilty of that for a while.

For Patriot fans. It does not matter that it has been going on for years.  A rule was broken and the Patriots got caught, end of story.  Everyone, including myself, has made the point that other NFL Quarterbacks (QB's) have admitted to doctoring the ball.  Before we go and indict those QB's and the NFL for those admissions, they admitted to doctoring the ball before the game and see what they can get away with.  They never admitted to doctoring the ball(s) DURING the game.  So it is not the same thing.  Am I saying that it doesn't happen, no I am not.  I am just saying those references aren't the same.

For Patriot haters.  The Patriots got caught cheating!  Do your happy dance!  Very nice, now that that is out of the way, can you please stop ignoring the fact that other teams have been caught and that it wasn't a story then?  The man who broke the story, Bob Kravitz, went on to a local radio show and stated that Patriots Coach Bill Belichick should be fired.  When asked if Green Bay's coach should be fired for their QB's admission, rather than say it's not the same thing, he insulted the hosts calling them Nixonian and said it was irrelevant. 

Two teams were warned during a game earlier this year for heating up footballs because the temperature was extremely cold.  That is the same thing Mr. Kravitz, and yes there was no talk of it then and when it is brought up now it is disregarded by Patriot haters.  Why?  Because the Patriots were caught before, so they need to surrender their first born on trivial issues while the rest of the league can continue to test the limits of the rules without being called to the carpet.  How is that objective?

The notion in the media that the Patriots should not be allowed to participate in the Super Bowl is not only ridiculous, but laughable.  There isn't one of the remaining thirty teams that would take that spot, because they didn't earn it.  You can argue that the Patriots didn't either and I get that, but let's not go overboard yet.  The talk on that has drastically retreated because people started to realize how dumb it sounded.

The NFL is not going to deal with this objectively, mainly because the Patriots have put them in a position where they can't win.  If they come back and levy the customary $25,000 and or draft picks (as first reported by Kravitz) penalty they will seem, to the "haters", lenient and that Robert Goodell, the Commissioner of the NFL, is in the pocket of Robert Kraft.  If the league comes down hard and outside of the customary penalty, Patriot Nation will scream foul and claim that the NFL cares more about deflated footballs than it does its players battering women.  Definitely a precarious position to be in.

As a Patriot Fan, I am not mad at Coach Belichick for what is going on.  Like I said earlier, it is the price of doing business as a fan.  However, it gets harder and harder to defend him.  Players and coaches around the league have been coming out and saying that this really isn't a big deal, but the Patriots don't get the benefit of the doubt because, as ESPN Columnist David Fleming coined, of the "The Schmuck Factor".  To gain the smallest of edge, the Patriots put themselves in this light, constantly.  Patriot Nation can defend that all they want, I will just choose not to, it is what is.

We all need to move on from this.  The NFL needs to come back soon (as of this writing they had not) and levy their punishment, there will be one, no doubt.  Then the Patriots, Fans, Haters, Media and NFL can all focus on the greatest spectacle in sports, The Super Bowl.


If you don't take it from me, ask my wife

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas Vacation Italian Style

The past few days have been a whirlwind.  The last time I wrote we were heading into Naples to get pizza.  The plan changed when my luggage was in airport purgatory.  I eventually had to go to the airport and demand my bag.  After about forty five minutes and also aiding a member of the U.S Navy who was in the same predicament as me, I was on my way with my bag.  Instead of heading to Naples we went to Caserta and just as good pizza.

After lunch we went up to a small little mountain town called Casertavecchia, which translated is "Old Caserta".  When you think of old time Italian towns, this one takes the cake.  The streets made of cobblestone and just wide enough barely fit a car.  You could literally walk the entire town in about 15 minutes.  The hilly streets and old time feel makes this a very interesting visit.

That brings us to Christmas Eve and you can only imagine what that entails.  I took the family through the town of San Nicola during the morning to get out of the house to avoid being yelled at by the multitude of Italian ladies cooking dinner.  The feast of the seven fishes was everything that it was cracked up to be.  Eel, squid, octopus, shrimp, cod fish, white fish, and scallops.  Thirty five people surrounding a table and talking at an octave that only a dog can appreciate.  Even Aunt Bethany from "Christmas Vacation" could hear this conversation.  The evening finished with a trip from Santa and a game called Tombola, which is equivalent to BINGO

Christmas Day was as about as relaxing as could be. Surrounding by family once again and Christmas mass in the church in which I was baptized.  This was the climax of my "Good Ol' Fashioned Italian Christmas".

Today (Friday) we woke up early and headed to the former house of Bourbon.  The Royal Palace of Caserta was last inhabitant of the monarchy that ruled Italy before its independence in 1848.  There are 1,700 windows and 120 rooms in the castle, only about a quarter of that is opened to the public.  After viewing the inside we went into the back grounds.  The grounds are just under two miles long and roughly a mile wide.  We took a ride in a horse drawn carriage to avoid really tiring out the baseball orphans.

Ten days is never enough time to tour Southern Italy, when you throw a holiday in the mix the time frame intensifies.  We have two more days left in Italy and we plan to make the most of them.  Until next time.

If you don't take it from me, ask my wife.